These are the ordinary activities blacks aren’t allowed to do if they wanted to avoid being questioned/arrested/shot by police:
- Go to Starbucks.
- Shop at Nordstrom Rack.
- Fall asleep in the library.
- Refuse to give up their table in a restaurant.
- Be outside in their relative’s backyard at night with a cell phone in hand.
- Rent space at an Airbnb.
- Walk around in a “white” neighborhood.
- Sit on their own front porch.
- Try to enter their own home in an upscale neighborhood.
Every day I read about another case of egregious harassment based on race. Increasingly, the stories feature white citizens taking it upon themselves to call police upon black citizens purely based on the color of their skin.
Some of this increase is no doubt due to the tenor of the Trump presidency, a mindset that emphasizes minorities as alien and criminal. After Trump was elected in 2016, hate crimes against minorities went up substantially. White supremacist groups, largely marginalized throughout the past 50 years, became emboldened by Trump’s dog whistle politics. Some Republican politicians have started campaigning on racist and misogynistic platforms with little to no subtlety.
Yet in a larger sense, these stories point to the reality that we are far from the “post racial” society that many Americans imagine our country to be. I would like my white friends to imagine what it’s like to get in one’s car on a daily basis and pray that they don’t get stopped or, worse, killed by a police officer. I’d like them to walk into their favorite store, restaurant, movie theater, or golf club and feel watched and harassed just by virtue of being there. I wonder how whites would feel if they were on the premises of their own property or that of a friend or relative and had neighbors calling the police on them.
Blacks can take nothing for granted in our world. What they wear, how they speak to strangers, even whether or not it’s wise to put their hands in their pockets. They live under a cloud of suspicion for no other reason than the color of their skin.
Certainly police training on bias would be helpful lessen the number of tragic shootings of blacks. But our society needs a sea change in our attitudes. Part of the problem is the segregation under which many Americans still live. We scarcely interact with people of other races or ethnicities, and therefore we are less comfortable around each other.
Far from ushering in a new, more tolerant age, the election of our first black president, Barack Obama, created a backlash on the part of many whites who fear that their own opportunities will be diminished by a more racially tolerant society. Blacks are held to a much higher standard for behavior than are whites. So it is up to us whites to fight for more inclusion, more opportunity, and more acceptance of African Americans – and indeed for all minorities.
Conservatives are fond of the expression “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Let’s apply that concept to race relations and not just trickle down economics for a change.
*Adding to the list:
15. Swim at a public pool without being questioned about whether you showered first.
16. Canvass as a lawmaker among one’s constituency.
17. Have a paper route.