Poet and Drunken Boat Editor Meets NYPD

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Ravi Shankar, the founding editor of Drunken Boat, has an opinion piece in the Hartford Courant about a particularly terrible run-in with the NYPD in which he overheard his arresting officer say, “Always a good day when you can bag a sand nigger.”

It doesn’t get better from there.

According to Shankar, he wasn’t immediately given a phone call or read his rights, and he and several other inmates were paraded past the reception desk while several officers sang “Here Comes the Bride.” When he pointed out  that the warrant he was being held on was for a white man who was four inches shorter than he, his arresting officer told him to “tell it to the judge.” He was also held for more than thirty hours.

Another inmate told him that he was caught up in a “city sweep,” in which the “first precinct to one hundred collars wins.”

There’s also in the story a reference to a four year old speeding ticket that some defenders of the police in the comment section allude to, but it’s not entirely clear how that plays into it. I also don’t really care whether he had an old speeding ticket or not. I understand that police have a tough job, but this is a reprehensible and immoral way for the cops to treat anyone. I just wish I could say I was surprised.

And despite one story on NPR, a writeup in Bookslut, and a blog post on Bookninja, it seems to me that many people aren’t aware of this. I just can’t shake the feeling that there should be a lot more uproar than there has been. So I hereby call on the literary world to go make waves. Go! Stick up for our own!


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He’s been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →