The Many Hazards of Living While Black
Very few things can be done while living Black that are not called into question by white America. For example, we, that is Black folk, have known for a very long time (much longer than white folk have been willing to acknowledge), that it is virtually a crime to drive while Black in most places in this country.
Cops will look for reasons to pull a Black person over and give them “the business.” If the Black person responds right, which is decoded to mean, they do not challenge why they were stopped in the first place, they may survive this encounter. Always lurking down the road is yet another encounter. These events can continue until the Black person reachs the breaking point, where they become fed up with the bull, become loud and get indignant over cop harassment.
Sandra Bland taught us the deadly consequences of driving while Black and blacksplaining the rights of a person driving while Black to a cop dead set on whitesplaining the facts of police power to Black folks; shut up and live, or keep running your mouth and die a mysterious death. We’ll let your dead ass try as hard as it can to explain that to your loved ones.
Eric Garner taught us the perils of standing on a street corner while Black. If you are too big to be arrested, the cops will gang up and choke the living breathe out of you. All the while you are blacksplaining your constitutional right to due process of law.
The police have no problem letting the videotape explain your death to your loved ones. It’s there, live and in living color, Garner was simply too big and too black for the cops to handle, thus blocking air from traveling throughout his body becomes an effective legal remedy.
Middle class and upper class Blacks thought they were immune from having to blacksplain their existence in America until the other day when two brothers seeking to invest in real estate sat down in the premiere coffee shop in America to wait on a business associate. They were given three choices: Either buy something, leave or be arrested.
Well-educated and clothed in their middle class garb, the brothers chose to be arrested before complying with a discriminatory order to spend their money or leave when other patrons were not given the same ultimatum.
Before the Black middle class could dismiss this as something akin to people commingling with the unwashed masses in a coffee shop, five Black women, one of them a lawyer and president of a local NAACP chapter, had the cops called on them while golfing in their private country club in York, Pennsylvania.
Now we can add to the lexicon that it is criminal behavior to be “waiting while Black” and to be “golfing at your private club while Black.”
Stacey Hopkins, a political activist in Atlanta, Georgia shared a recent “living while Black” moment.
She was working for a U S Senate candidate. While attending a debate, Hopkins relates this story: “I was one of five Black people in the room who were not service staff, but nobody told the room.
As I’m breaking down the candidate table in the lobby before the end of the event, a white woman, who was an attendee like I was, walks up to me and says, “Be sure to tell the chef the chicken was delicious.” I turn around to see who she was talking to. I told her if I see him I would because it truly was, but she was mistaken because I wasn’t staff and showed her the identical credentials she had around her neck, I was an ATTENDEE. She just rolled her eyes and walked away, but I was furious and so hurt at the microaggression. I mean, I’m still viewed as the HELP.”
What will become the next casual activity that will give Blacks a whitesplaining on why their presence is unwanted?
Stay tuned. There is alway a challenge while living colored in America.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Well written, Michael. But let me add something as a Black woman raised middle class: I’ve never thought I was immune to any of this mess. And if truth be told, this is a wakeup call for a lot of people. While I know there are certainly scenarios where we will have to interact with white people–and racist white people at that–there are plenty of places of business that are Black-owned that cater to us. That white woman that called the police at Starbucks never had any customer service training that said you don’t treat patrons in the manner that she treated those two brothers–Never. Starbucks’ administrators never thought about any of this until it happened. That should give us pause. (Consider this: Do you think Truett Cathy’s family would ever allow anyone Black to be mistreated at a Chick-Fil-A considering how much bird we consume!?!?) So Black folks need to start thinking more about the businesses and areas of town that they patronize. Buckhead is full of Black shoppers; and there isn’t a business in that area of town that gives a rat’s behind about anyone Black. We cannot prevent all of this, but we can stop paying our enemies’ bills.
We certainly have control over not paying the enemies bills.