Magazine article Essence

Breathing While Black

Magazine article Essence

Breathing While Black

Article excerpt

It all started when two Black men showed up early for a meeting at a Philadelphia Starbucks. Upon their arrival, one asked to use the restroom. He was told by the manager that only paying customers could use it. So they sat down to wait for their business associate. What happened next was wholly ridiculous, but not completely unexpected or shocking: The manager, a White woman, called the police on the men. When the cops arrived, they handcuffed both men and escorted them from the coffee shop after a brief discussion with the manager. It was a bad look for Philly police, and an embarrassing display of what seems to be the latest fad sweeping the nation: White people calling the authorities to "help" them survive sharing public spaces with Black people.

A Black student asleep in her dorm's common room at Yale University. A Black man using a barbecue grill in an Oakland park. A Black girl selling bottled water to passersby on the street. A Black man moving into his new apartment. A Black woman presenting a coupon at CVS. A Black boy mowing lawns. A Black man lounging by the pool at his apartment complex. Black women playing golf "too slowly." A Black boy delivering newspapers in a predominantly White neighborhood. A Black family having dinner at Subway. A Black state representative campaigning in her district. A Black Realtor inspecting a house listed for sale. All these examples have one thing in common: A White person called the police on people who were committing no crimes and posing no threat to anyone.

This year we've seen an uptick in incidents of racial bias involving White people-White women in particular-calling the cops on Black people for simply existing. But let's, be clear: The increase is in the reporting, not necessarily the number of incidents. We don't know how many Black folks have had to endure racial profiling that went unrecorded. But now, with smartphones in every hand, ordinary citizens have become like reporters, documenting and sharing such occurrences on social media. Given that dozens of unarmed Black people have been killed by police in recent years, these videos are a painful reminder of the legacy of unwarranted violence enacted upon us for centuries.

Case in point: In late March of this year, citing new evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement that it had reopened its investigation into the murder of Emmett Till, the Black teenager brutally slain in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a White woman. In the 2017 book The Blood of Emmett TUI, author Timothy B. Tyson revealed that Carolyn Bryant (now Donham), the White woman who claimed Till had insulted her, admitted that she had made up the story. The two men who killed Till based on Donham's false accusation were found not guilty by an all-White, allmale jury. …

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