Sunday, January 24, 2021

Walking while black

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Activism, Self Esteem

This fab guest post is from Miss Lori

I was sitting in the Richland Center in Chinatown today. I was looking out the window, trying to make eye contact with members of my community. I was  hoping they would trust my non-Chinese face enough to come in and ask the questions they may have about the Census. Then I saw some undercover police officers stop two young black males who were walking near the parking lot right across the street from me. Now admittedly, I couldn’t hear anything they were saying, and I wasn’t privy to any radio bulletins that might have gone out to police in the area. There may well have been a very good reason for these young men to be stopped. But the body language of all four individuals remained relatively casual throughout the interaction. In fact, what struck me most was how comfortable, or should I say familiar, the young black males in particular were with this procedure. The young men immediately placed their hands palms down on the hood of the car. They stood facing the vehicle with their legs spread apart. Just ready. The officers searched them, taking the familiar white ipod headphones out of one young mans’ ears. Unzipping his jacket. Emptying his pockets. Removing his ID from his wallet. All for what? Like I said, I don’t really know. However, the boys were released without incident, after the police officers ran their names, and issued them some sort of receipt I think. The whole episode took about 15 minutes. Simple right? No harm, no foul. Right? I don’t know.

Having lived in this neighborhood for the last 8 years I am painfully aware that “walking while black” can be seen as a cause for alarm. Even though my son is only just turning 12, and has lived here since he was small, he’s now 5’ 9 1/2” and people are looking at him differently. When he and his best friend, (who is 13, 6ft tall and a few shades darker than my son), walk around the neighborhood I see some residents switch sides of the street, or clutch their pocket books a little tighter. Since these two boys have had their meteoric growth spurts in less than a year our neighbors don’t seem to recognize them as the little boys who have spent most of their lives walking around this community. Their community, Chinese or not.

As I watched the officers drive away, and the two young men walk in the opposite direction I got a pit in my stomach. Was this a foreshadow of things to come for my own child. Will he too become used to standing spread eagle in front of a police car as he is searched by an officer of the law? I’d like to think not, but my gut says something different. My gut says that my boy isn’t so little anymore, and I am not going to be able to protect him from the World’s unfair perceptions of him based on his height, his gate, and yes, his color.



Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV , , YoungChicagonista , and ChicagoMomsBlog. She is also the new Chicago Family Entertainment Blogger for and a Discussion Leader for MomsLikeMeChicago. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.



3 Responses to “Walking while black”
  1. Shhhh says:

    Wow. That is despicable to me.

  2. JA says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve seen this auto-response before as well here in my neighborhood as guys of colour with a definite look are stopped and frisked. I get mistaken for Lenny Kravitz alot, so I don’t get bothered in my neighborhood of Hollywood, CA. But when I leave….
    I’m here because I’ve been stopped for “walking while black” three times in the last month or so. Never had this happen before.

    First was at work on a film set in front of the Lynwood Jail. I’m there working, and obviously reporting in to the production asst. She tells me to stand by the catering tent and wait. Two sheriffs are watching me the entire time as I stand and wait, with a backpack on and a folding chair strapped to my arm. When the PA came back with the rest of the group I was to join, as I joined the line, the sheriff had the yell and pull me out of line and ask if I was an “extra”, which was of course, the job I came to to that day. Why else would I be there? He watched me from arrival to when she gathered the rest of the group…a good ten minutes. If I was such a security threat, why didn’t he ask right off the bat? I don’t appreciate being harassed at work.

    Then I’m leaving my part time job working in info tech. The guys I worked with dropped me off at the bustop in Commerce at Garfield and Telegraph, and before I know it, I have a sheriff stopping me, searching me and my backpack, and asking me if I got out of a car with a “couple”. I say no, that I just got off of work! After finding the Starbucks scone and the copy of Howard’s Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, her partner figured I wasn’t the “black man” they were looking for.

    Then on vacation, most recently, I was visiting a friend. Out of respect, I take the one smoke a day I do, way out of range of my friends house. I was visiting for four days, and had been out after dark in his neighborhood for two eves prior. This particular eve, a cop in the shadows saw me come out of the breezeway of his middle class complex, pause a moment, and then go back in. At least that’s what he told me later after hunting me down like in an episode of Hawaii 5 O…

    By the time I reached the end of the breezeway I was half done smoking, so walked back in, and walked to the next street. I wanted to let myself complete the loop back to my friends house. By the time I got to the end of that street, I saw very clearly a cop car driving into the small complex, entering on the same street I was walking on, and from the opposite direction. I reached the end of the street and made a right, crossing the next street to get to my friends street, and I can see the cop had made it around to where he was now coming towards me…with his headlights off now.

    I was no more than a house away from my friends place before he gunned his engine, made a right to where he was right behind me, turned his headlights on, as well as his red and blues.

    He started on about me walking out of the breezeway, and coming back in, and that there had been break-ins, and have I ever been arrested before? I said no, I was visiting a friend, I was a vet, went to the Air Force Academy, and had no intention of stealing anything, just smoking and going to bed. Yet still, he had to get my license, ss number, and run my info to see if I had any arrests. What gives? If I HAD been arrested, I would have been lying about smoking and going to bed? The neighborhood is middle class and predominantly black and latino. I easily could have owned property there, yet I was a suspect because I was walking late at night out of respect for my friend.

    I’m really tired. I feel like a fugitive in my own country after serving it in uniform for years before. After defending it from communism. Now I can’t even walk and be left alone unless I’m in my little strip of HOllywood. SAD. VERY SAD. Thanks for writing and thanks for letting me vent. Never experienced this in my life till now. Been followed in stores at times, pulled over driving in Spokane (surprise), but the cops have left me alone. Now I have to be ready to be searched and explain where I’m going all the time?


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  1. […] get me wrong. But there are may things here that aren’t serving us well. My children want to live in an environment that is more “neighborhood” like. Where there are friends on every corner. My son is desperate for more boys in his life to balance […]

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