Yesterday my friend Tanya and I were at the Preakness in Baltimore. Across the street from the racetrack, a number of African-American residents were barbecueing various goodies outside their houses and selling them to the hordes of people attending the race. Street food, in other words — hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs, made fresh and sold alongside icy cold Budweisers.

Tanya and I partook and sat eating our goodies as two cops sat nearby in their cruiser, looking in our direction. Remember — thousands of people, cops, buses, taxis, parking attendants, racing enthusiasts, traffic cops, were milling around and walking in and out of the race track about 20 feet from where we sat as we chatted with the food vendors and enjoyed our lunch. It was as busy as a street corner in downtown Manhattan.

After about 10 minutes, the police — a ruddy-faced white guy with a shaved head and his female partner — put the cruiser in gear and drove up next to us.

Read the conversation after the jump:

Male cop: “You ladies need to vacate this area immediately. It is not safe here. You are sitting in the most dangerous area of Baltimore.”

Me, hackles raised because, as mentioned, it was BROAD DAYLIGHT AND THERE WERE EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE AROUND: “That may be so, but their barbecue is delicious.”

Female cop: “I wouldn’t eat what they’re cooking.”

And off they went. As they pulled away, we heard the female hiss to her partner: “And they’ve got a BABY in the back seat!” Little devil baby Alexander was sound asleep in his car seat as we sat in the front of the car and finished off our lunch.

Tanya and I were floored. This is how you treat the community you police? With not even an effort made to cover up your racism? “I wouldn’t eat what they’re cooking.” The fear-mongering, in addition to the blatant racism, also incensed me. The guys who sold us our lunch were friendly, funny and accommodating — they were not brandishing weapons and selling crack. And there’s nothing I hate more than paranoid morons who see crime lurking in every possible human interaction. What a miserable way to live, for one thing, and if you go through life assuming the worst of people based on tired stereotypes, how does anything ever change?

A day later, and I am still so pissed about this. I went back into the track and told some of my colleagues, who were equally appalled. And yet the guys on the street aren’t going to know about those people. All they know is some racist cop and his partner, two people who routinely police their community, tried to scare two people away from them. Their alleged crime? Serving up some food on Preakness Day and trying to make some honest coin from the teeming crowds of people in attendance.