too old, female and white to be trayvon, but stand in solidarity
My post is about an incident that happened in 1969 in Bensonhirst, Brooklyn, N.Y. Sadly not much has changed since then. I was participating in a rally at FDR High School along with classmates to ask that ethnic studies be taught in public schools. A mob of white racist neighborhood bullies came to the school to harrass the mostly black students who were demostrating with vicious dogs, chains and threats. The teachers who were present to provide support to the peaceful rally decided to call the police to escort our group to the train station which was 5 long and isolated blocks away so they could return to their homes in safety. The teachers stayed with us until we turned the corner a block before the “el”. As soon as the teachers were out of sight, the police turned on my classmates and began clubbing THEM with absolutely no provocation as they ran for the train station. At least a few of them sustained injuries. I am not aware that there was ever any justice afforded to these students. Several years later a black MTA employee was shot to death as he left work in the same neighborhood.
He Could Be Your Twin
It was a pretty normal day. I Left my off-campus house and took a walk to the comic book store, just a typical fall day in Pennsylvania nothing special. On my way home I noticed what appeared to be someone following me, figured it was just my imagination.
After I dropped the comics at my house I walked to the grocery store, I noticed a cop car I had seen a couple of times on my way to the comic book store and thought to myself: “is that cop car following me?”, shrugged it off “nah, you’re being paranoid”. I went to the grocery store and picked up some cheap college fare, probably Ramen noodles, frozen juice, Mac and Cheese and the like.
On my way back the same police car pulled up ahead of me and a cop jumped out. He stood in front of me and put his hand out like he was a traffic cop who wanted me to stop.
“Excuse me, I need to see some ID, we’re looking for someone and you bear a very strong resemblance”.
I had heard about this kind of thing in the past so I wasn’t especially worried at this point, I figured I’d show him my ID and he’d leave me alone. But then I started to notice a few things:
- A guy who appeared to be in casual clothes except for the cargo tactical pants and the combat boots, who was slowly creeping up behind me.
- Two cop cars just stopped on the other side of the street, they didn’t park, they just stopped as if they were waiting for something.
- The corner was about 20 meters ahead of us, and another squad car pulled up and parked on the cross street, two cops got out of the car and just stood on the sidewalk facing us.
At that point this turned from a basic “let me see some ID and then I’ll leave you alone” situation into: “what in the world have I stepped in?!”
Still, the demeanor of the cop ahead of me (let’s call him Officer Friendly) was really calm and friendly, so I just took a deep breath, put my groceries down carefully, slowly took out my wallet and handed over my IDs to Officer Friendly.
Officer Friendly looked at my IDs (and almost frantically) called into his radio: “College ID, College ID, BACK-UP BACK-UP BACK-UP!”
At this point the true tenor of the situation began to sink in, Officer Friendly was just meant to disarm me, distract me while the other cops took me down. It was actually a surprise that my ID displayed that I was a student at the local snotty college, not the person they were looking for.
The Mr. Friendly Cop handed me back my ID and apologized for the confusion, said I had the bad luck of looking “exactly” like the suspect.
“I’m really sorry about all of this, we’re looking for a guy who murdered a 13 year old girl and you look just like him. You two could be twins”
“Can you tell the guy behind me to stop sneaking up on me, I can see him in your car window”
Mr. Friendly looked past me at the cop sneaking up on me, “stand down, he’s not our guy”.
Sneaky cop stopped and just sort of stood there, staring daggers at me.
“But seriously man, you look just like our suspect, let me know show you his picture”
Before I go further let me note that at the time I was a 5’9” 190 pound track athlete, with short hair and medium to dark skin.
6’2”, 140 pounds, very light skinned and with dreadlocks.
I looked the picture over, “I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but I look nothing like this guy”
“I don’t know man, I still think he could be your twin”
I shook my head, picked up my groceries and walked away.
I remember being pissed off, but relieved as I knew it could’ve ended far worse.
Let’s say I wasn’t going to the rich private school, let’s say I was taller and lighter complexioned, how does this end?
It ends with multiple cops tackling me to the ground, and dragging me away to sort it all out later.
I first started studying martial arts when I was around four, not claiming to be a master but what if they just tackled me and I just reacted? How does that end….
…never mind, let’s not go there.
I got really lucky; one small change and my life is ruined if not destroyed, and for no other reason than the police were looking for a black man and I happened to walk through their line of sight. It was one of those incidents whose significance didn’t really sink until I told my friends about it later, and when people in my neighborhood asked me about it.
Five years later my nephew was born and I was starting to get hopeful, starting to think he was being born into a better world. Started to think that maybe, just maybe by the time he was 20 he could attend a private college in a predominantly white area and not have to worry.
I love my little nephew, he’s a sweet, nerdy 11 year old, who just wants to read “Lord of the Rings”, get good grades, and spend time with his family. He also likes to wear hoodies, just like most people in the rainy Pacific Northwest. I think of this case and think of him walking to my house from the convenience store in my neighborhood and some lunatic targeting him. I think of pundits wanting to blame his clothes as if said lunatic wouldn’t have targeted him if he had been wearing a suit and not a hoodie, as if the “hoodie” is even the issue.
It breaks my heart to think of someone hurting him because he visited me and someone pursued him because they thought he was too black to be in a nice neighborhood. It breaks my heart to think of the other black families in that neighborhood who are undoubtedly living in fear right now. But most of all it breaks my heart that in the year 2012 we’re still dealing with this nonsense, and people are steadily trying to make excuses for the behavior of lunatics.
This case needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as should all other similar cases. A message needs to be sent that Black lives are worth as much as White ones, and that you cannot kill Black men with no other justification than your own racism and ignorance.
In the end that’s the real issue here, if Trayvon was a blond girl George Zimmerman would be jail right now and no one would be trying to paint her as dangerous or the victim of bad clothing choices. Instead since Trayvon is Black it’s far too easy for our society to look at this as just another Black hoodlum who died by the sword, or look for an excuses to portray this situation that way.
Black, lives, matter, ALL LIVES MATTER, our society can’t move forward from it’s horrific racial past until this becomes gospel.
my brother could be trayvon
it’s always been interesting being a “model” minority. knowing that i am “better off” in racial discrimination terms than many other people of color. funny though how september 11 changed that irrevocably. (see this story about a brown woman beaten to death in her own home because of an anti-muslim hate crime not too far from where my parents live in san diego, california http://www.kusi.com/video?clipId=6873064&autostart=true).
i’ve thought a lot about trayvon’s story and my own brother’s run ins with the police in his short 18 years of life. i sometimes feel strangely lucky to be a brown woman and not a brown man, despite all the bullshit being a woman of color brings. it’s odd the things a racist system causes us to be thankful for.
Enjoying a walk through a nice, suburban, pre-dominantly white neighborhood today with a hoody, tennis shoes, and disheveled black hair, I thought ‘wow, Trayvon didn’t get to do this safely’.
Taking a walk on a Day off of School
When I was a senior in High School, I ended up having a day off on a Thursday in May 2009. That day I decided to go for a walk in my neighborhood or close.
The neighborhood I lived in at that time was a predominantly white neighborhood in South Minneapolis. It was very close to the Minnehaha Creek and Lake Harriet. I ended up walking onto a neighborhood that was more upper middle class than where even I was, but very close to my house at the same time called Kings Highway and Dupont. While I was walking a black minivan pulled up to me, and the driver’s window was pulled down.
“Do you need a ride?” a woman with short brown hair in Big sunglasses asked.
“No, thank you,” I said. “I’m just on a walk.”
“You sure?” She asked.
“I’m sure,” I replied. “It’s a nice day today.”
“You are sure you don’t need a ride?” She asked again.
“I’m sure,” I said.
Finally, she drove off, and in spite of feeling like I was being stalked at that moment, I continued on my walk.
I eventually ended up walking back and when I did, the same minivan was there to greet me, as well as the woman.
“You sure you know where you are going?” She asked me almost witha worried look on her face.
I said Yes raising my eyebrow as she was about to take a picture of me with he camera phone. Then she drove off
At that moment, I was feeling uncomfortable (thinkning she might have been a predator) and started walking faster. I was about to call my mom (because I was not so sure whether this was a police incident) about it when the cops drove up to me as I was walking back.
“Can I see your ID?” The first police officer asked me.
“Is there something wrong officer,” I asked as I was pulling out my purse.
“A woman called us to check on you,” the second police officer said. “She said you looked suspicious.”
I was taken aback at all of it. Apparently, this was the reason she was spying on me.
I showed the cops my school ID
“You go to Main Street!” the first officer said.
“Yep!” I said. ”Senior Year; music major.”
“Congratulations.” The first Officer said.
I got my ID back, and they drove off.
I remember being very unusually angry after that. I was not angry at the cops, since I was fortunate to not suffer police brutality like many in situations of racial profiling. However, this encounter never needed to happen. I was on a walk on a nice day; I was neither practicing vandalism on a house nor even talking to any kids. Yet somehow, according to that woman, that 9/11 phone call was needed because I “looked” suspicious.
I was fortunately not in harms way at all, but when Zimmerman said that same thing about Trayvon “looking suspicious” during that 9/11 call before he shot and killed him, it hearkened back to that time.
The Pain of Trayvon
Black men have been shot up my whole life - from the famous - such as Malcolm X - to Trayvon. All of those killings take a little bit of me with them (so a lot of me is gone), but this one seems to have invaded my entire soul. I am feeling a knot in my chest all day. I wake up in the middle of the night in emotional agony. I can’t eat. I had to leave a meeting at work because I couldn’t hold it together. I feel nauseous. Detached from the everyday flow of life. With each story on TV I feel less and less alive. Is this some kind of mourning psychosis? A paralyzing torment that won’t let go? What to do?! I have to do SOMETHING.
Walking in the Mall
I remember as a 17 year old youth,growing up in Greensboro,North Carolina,there was a mall that was a common meeting place that my friends and I would frequent weekends. After getting off from work (yes I was employed) the 4 of us would go to the Carolina Circle Mall to play the arcade,eat some pizza,then try to talk to the pretty girls who were there.but there was this over-zealous mall security guard who would ALWAYS follow us around the mall,even to the point of following us out as we left. We couldn’t understand why he would follow us around and never would follow the large crowds of white teenagers.Then one day,he asked us to leave the mall saying that we were in there too long and hadn’t purchased anything!!(We were at the arcade playing Ms Pac-Man)…We exchanged words and then he summoned his fellow security guards for help…Now in Greensboro N.C. tensions were still high from the acquittal of several KKK members who killed several CWP members back in 1979,after a “Death to the Klan” rally. After we left he followed us and we then decided to go to the Four Seasons Mall from then on. I often look back and wonder what would have happened if the confrontation was outside,and he (fearing 4 young black teenagers),could have reached for his gun and shot one of us, Yes I and my friends could have been Trayvon!!!
Welcome Home, Boy!
In the late 90’s I was one of two Black men on a 747 flying from Munich to Boston. I was casually dressed, with dreadlocks flying. The other Brother was attired in an expensive three-piece suit and carried a pricey briefcase. I imagined him to be a high-end lawyer or diplomat.
As I proceeded through US Customs, I was pulled aside and taken to a corner by two Caucasian customs officials. I noticed that the other Black man was taken aside as well. (We didn’t know each other; he had flown in the first class cabin, unlike myself.) In the meantime, hundreds of Caucasian travelers were ambling through to the baggage claim area sans concerns.
One man asked me what I was doing flying from Munich to Boston. I indicated that I was on vacation and had visited a friend. He laughed, “You have a friend in Munich??!” I didn’t respond. He then asked, “What do you do for work, man?” I explained that I was an Administrative Director of a mathematics project at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He guffawed, “You don’t fucking work at Dartmouth! Where’s your ID?”
I produced the Dartmouth ID.
He looked at it for a long time - perhaps thinking it was bogus or something - then put it up against my face and barked, “Welcome home, boy!”
Later that day, I sat down and wrote a lengthy letter to the Head of US Customs at Logan Airport and copied the letter to the Governor and various other officials about the incident. (The letter was on Dartmouth stationery. )
It is now 2012, and I have yet to hear from anyone about the incident.
[I always document and write letters because these things have a way of finding their way to personnel files and such - if they aren’t destroyed. Because of this sliver of a chance, I figure it’s worth the trouble to write authorities about these things. Of course with modern electronics such as IPODs, it is possible to record one’s encounters with authorities discreetly. Such evidence is less easily ignored because it is so vivid and dynamic. So I plan to write about and record events forthwith to make my cases even more robust and more likely to be investigated.
I was an officer in US Navy stationed in Long Beach Ca. One night while out cruising in Hollywood (this was in 1988) the traffic light turned yellow I was going to fast to stop and was close enough to pass thru on yellow . I was stopped by police said I ran a yellow light. I was ordered out the car and have me sobriety test , check my pupils had me recite the alphabet lean backwards I passed with flying colors yet they wouldn’t let me go. At same a lady time came by yelling there was a serious fight around the corner the cope ignored her and kept check king me over. Minutes later a Sr cop looked into my eyes said I was clean and they let me go. ##### One other time I had picked up my 6, yr old daughter from school close to home cop stooped me for speeding . My daughter asked are you going to give my daddy a ticket. The cop said hi there cutie, smiled and let me go.