Walking while black
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 , Wearetherealdeal.com , YoungChicagonista , and ChicagoMomsBlog. She is also the new Chicago Family Entertainment Blogger for Examiner.com 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.