Thursday, March 7, 2019

I Could Just Scream

This is a story about a little boy who lives down the street from my granddaughters. It resurfaced in my mind because of news this week in a Colorado city I had thought was pretty “hip.” I think Boulder is generally considered to be a liberal city of peace and good will. So I was appalled to read about a policeman confronting a man in his front yard this week, demanding he throw down the trash picker tool he was using to clean his property. The man screamed back, telling the cop he lived and worked there and to get off his property, and the officer radioed for backup. The backup cop arrived, gun drawn. No one got shot, so the story has a better ending than it might have had in other cities across the United States. But I doubt there would have been a story if the man with the plastic bucket and trash picker tool had been white. He was black. I don’t know what to say. I think of my own town, Fayetteville, Arkansas, as a smaller version of Boulder. It scares me to see this racial profiling going on in a college town where people would seem to be more accepting of differences, especially when those differences involve minority groups. Less than 2 percent of the Boulder population is black. Fayetteville has about 6 percent black people living in its borders, according to a Deloitte website, I thought about the man in his yard, yelling at the police. I thought that I, a white woman, would have been too scared to scream at them, especially when a gun was drawn. I wondered how much common sense he had to be yelling and not putting down his trash picker tool when ordered to do so. And then I realized something huge. There has to come a point at which people who are being racially profiled scream, “Enough! No more!” When they take a place at the white lunch counter. When they sit in the front of the bus. That’s what this man did. I remembered how long ago my mother told me that nice girls who didn’t want to get raped dressed conservatively. The girl, the black man, the Muslim, the insert-minority-of-your-choice-here, it is they who need to alter their behaviors to avoid being bullied, assaulted, or, even, killed. But that’s not right. We can talk, we do talk, until we are blue in the face about compassion and acceptance and racial profiling, and, still, even a hip city like Boulder doesn’t “get” it. How much hope can there be for the rest of us? How do minority groups go through their lives? I suspect that Boulder man was a little scared even as he screamed. He’s seen all the news stories about innocent people being gunned down because they are black. But on this day, anger trumped fear. And then I remembered something that happened on my granddaughters’ street last summer. My husband Jeremy and I were driving over to see the girls, and when we turned the corner onto their street, Jeremy had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a neighbor boy playing in the road. Jeremy rolled his window down and told David, 7 at the time, “You need to be way more careful. You could have been killed!” David’s eyes popped open: “Are you saying you’re gonna kill me?” We were aghast! “No, David!” Jeremy said, “I’m saying you have to be careful in the street because if a car hits you, you could be killed.” David knows our granddaughters. He’s come to birthday parties at their house. He knows Jeremy and me. Why in the world would he have ever thought we would say we were going to kill him? I knew, though. I knew exactly why. David is black. In our world, even in my compassionate Fayetteville, racial profiling is a lifelong condition when your skin is black. It makes me want to scream.

No comments: