“Walking While Black” – The crime of being a non-White walker where a person walking down the street can be profiled, stopped, handcuffed, arrested, and interrogated by police solely due to skin color. The person can be handcuffed and questioned right there on the sidewalk or made to sit down at the curb. The police’s actions are normally based on suspicion, not a crime. The non-White person can actually be stopped right out in front of their home. Sometimes all it takes is for an officer or private citizen to make a claim that the person looks “suspicious” without anything concrete to back up such a claim. For the most part, it is a non-White person walking through a White environment. ~
I’m a doting mother and I love, love, love my children. I want them to have a wonderful upbringing and a happy life; but parenting African-American children does not come without its challenges…especially regarding my son. He’s a beautiful child with a lot of joy and innocence. But, that innocence is going to be shattered in a flash when he comes up against “Walking While Black.”
I myself had to deal with “Walking White Black” as a child when we integrated a suburban neighborhood in the Bay Area. My sister and I, though little girls, were prime target for the police who would stop us and write-up citations for stupid stuff like riding our bikes on the sidewalk. Or, heaven forbid we ride our bikes in the wrong direction in the bike lane. And, sometimes they’d just cruise behind us in their patrol cars and watch us. Believe me when I tell you we were just kids! But, it didn’t matter to them. We were non-White and this is how the cops rolled back then (1970s). And, sadly, many still do today.
“Walking While Black” is something that scares me, angers me, and puts me at odds with this beautiful, yet sometimes discriminatory and entitlement-beleaguered country that we live in and call our home. Often, America does not feel like home to many citizens who are profiled and targeted not for anything that they’ve done, but for simply being who they are and looking the way they do. And, the way they look can run the gamut from being a dark-skinned brother walking down the street with a sports hoodie on to a dreadlocked woman going to get her mail in a gated community. Both can look “suspicious” because “suspicious” is in the eye of the beholder; and it’s the beholder I’m worried about. The beholder is who I personally feel we need to be leery of.
The beholder can be anyone. I mean, anyone! In the best-case scenario it’s someone who is intelligent, has wisdom, and good intentions. But, unfortunately, a beholder can also be someone who is blinded by prejudice, stereotypes, and hate. It can be someone who has an axe to grind. And, it can be some hot-head renegade with a loaded weapon or a neighborhood watch crew who stare down people as they stroll through their community, making them feel unwelcome.
The scariest thing about a beholder is that all they have to do is pick up a phone, call the police, and tell them they see someone “suspicious.” That term in and of itself can set the wheels in motion, leading to an event that can end in tragedy when police show up somewhere, armed and ready to do business with the “suspicious” person. The only thing they have to go on is what’s been told to a police dispatcher over the phone. Before any investigative triage is done, the “suspicious” person can find themselves in handcuffs and spreadeagled on the sidewalk. Or, they can find themselves staring down a bullet with police accusations of, “I thought he was reaching for a gun.”
When 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin stepped out several weeks ago in a gated, lower-middle class community (homes value between $80,000 – $120,000) he had no idea that the fates were against him: he was up against a beholder. What should have been a simple walk to and from a store ended in the child’s body bleeding to death on the sidewalk due to circumstances out of his control. Those circumstances allegedly involved a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, who had decided that Trayvon was “suspicious” and up to no good. Trayvon had not trespassed, violated any HOA rules, or committed a crime. The kid was walking home from the store with snacks in his pocket. But, Mr. Zimmerman — the beholder — reported Travyon to the police.
Then, he followed Trayvon in his car after being told not to do so. Trayvon was still walking towards the house he had left earlier and was nearly to his destination when Mr. Zimmerman got out of his car and approached him. An altercation ensued and some neighbors have reported that they heard a child cry out for help. Then, a gunshot pierced the air and Trayvon’s chest. And, there was silence. The child’s cries stopped.
Trayvon was unarmed. Trayvon was still a kid. Trayvon hadn’t even graduated from high school yet. Trayvon had no criminal record. But, the beholder who called him into the police as “suspicious” did. The beholder who went after Trayvon in his car did. The beholder who shot and killed him did.
Although I was not there, I had a disturbing vision of this incident…kind of like a daydream. It is only a vision and I’m not jumping to any conclusions because this case is still being investigated. But, in my vision, I saw a young, happy kid, strolling on a damp wet sidewalk. He was mindful of his destination and thinking of the televised basketball game that awaited him. Then, he was approached out of the blue…stopped by Mr. Zimmerman who flagged him as being “suspicious” and was in that frame of mind. Trayvon was scared…probably tried to talk his way out and reason with Mr. Zimmerman… He was caught off guard and didn’t know what to do or if he should run. Trayvon weighed only 140 lbs. which is slight of build. Reports say that Mr. Zimmerman is a big dude. Trayvon probably didn’t know if he was going to be abducted or robbed. He probably thought Mr. Zimmerman was the bad guy based on the situation….him coming at Trayvon who had done nothing. Trayvon tried to defend himself…he fought back…his only recourse. He was scared and probably thought he was fighting for his life. Then, he saw the gun. And, there was probably a flash of a second when Trayvon knew that he might very well die.
I am sick to my stomach when I think about this…that that scared, young boy probably knew that he may not walk away from that situation at all. I am in tears when I think about the fact that he died needlessly on a sidewalk because I cannot understand why a neighborhood watchman would have a loaded weapon on him. You mean to tell me that this man felt the properties in this community were so threatened by this kid walking down the street that he had to go after him armed like that? And, why would this man follow Trayvon after police admonished him to stay in his house? It doesn’t make sense to me so I await more news from this investigation.
Mr. Zimmerman has admitted to shooting Trayvon. He said it was in self-defense. Trayvon was unarmed. The police have not arrested Zimmerman and appear not to be cooperating with the bereaved family. I can only imagine the pain his mother must feel right now. “Walking While Black” is a mother’s worst nightmare. My heart breaks for her and I just want to reach out and tell her how much support she has and how much love I’m sending her way.
I’m not perfect. For corrections, please email me.