Walking While Black


So here’s a story from my youth.

One Saturday afternoon when I was 16 or 17, I was walking to a local park. Halfway there I walked past this police car that was parked at the sidewalk. The police officer (who just so happened to be a White male) who was in the car got out and told me to stop and come back to him, and then he made me put my hands on the car and spread my legs and he proceeded to pat me down. All he found on me was a paperback book that I had in my jacket pocket (it was Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-DMC), because that’s the kind of WILD teenager that I was…the kind who spent his weekend reading books…clearly a MENACE TO SOCIETY.

So as he was patting me down I asked, in a perfectly respectful tone, why he stopped me, and you know what his answer was?

Because I didn’t turn and look at him when I walked by his car.


Yes, he was wondering why I was “avoiding his gaze”, as if I had something to hide (as opposed to just maybe, I don’t know, I WAS SIMPLY MINDING MY OWN DANG BUSINESS) and that was suspicious to him. Uh huh. And I wasn’t even sagging my pants, or wearing a hoodie…

So after a few minutes of questioning, in which he asks me something about some gangs which I had absolutely no knowledge of (because, again, I was a book-reading NERD, not any type of gang-banger), he lets me go on my way.

Now, as far as negative experiences with the police go, I know this was relatively minor, compared to what many others have gone through…


…but this did piss me off at the time, because it was annoying and embarrassing. Cars are driving by, and people are looking out their window as I’m standing there being searched like a criminal. And it’s why the Trayvon Martin incident resonated very strongly with me. Because, like him, I was a Black teenage male who was not in the act of committing any crime or breaking any laws. Like him, I was simply walking along a public street, minding my own business, not bothering anyone. Yet someone else just assumed that we were up to no good, and therefor needed to be confronted. And of course I always knew that that cop’s reason for stopping me was bogus. I didn’t look at him. Right. If I had looked him, I bet he would have said that was suspicious, and stopped me just the same.

And, sure enough, we have this recent news story:

Black man, John Felton, pulled over by a (White) cop, first told it was for not turning on his signal on early enough, but then was told it was for “making direct eye contact” with the officer.

See what I mean? For certain people, it doesn’t matter what you do. If they want a reason to pull you over, they will FIND a reason to pull you over. #racialprofiling

Frankly, I’m just glad that brother is still alive, for asserting his rights.


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