Things I Take For Granted #1

Stories, Things I Take For Granted4 Comments

I work at a shelter for homeless youth. Tonight, a resident of the shelter–a young black male–needed to go to the hospital, so I walked with him to the corner to catch a cab. While I was on hold with the company’s dispatch line, he walked ahead and stood at the curb trying to hail one.

A squad car crept up and the  officer in the shotgun seat rolled down his window and asked the young man, “What are you up to?”

The young man was totally unfazed. He didn’t even look up from his cell phone as he shrugged and answered their question: “chillin’.”

At that point I had given up on actually getting through to dispatch over the phone, so I ended the call and walked up to stand side by side with the young man. I intentionally ignored the squad car and began talking to him about how we had to make sure we hailed a cab from one of two specific companies so they would accept the voucher tickets we had for him.

The officers didn’t try to talk to me, suddenly seemed disinterested in the young man, and then drove away. I asked the young man if he thought this incident was strange and he nodded, adding, “but they weren’t even trying to talk to you, and then they just rolled off, boy, I need to get me a white friend for real!”

We both laughed.

Did they really question him simply because he’s black? I can’t know for sure. But I do know I take for granted that I never have to deal with being randomly questioned by the police.

What about you?

SorenThings I Take For Granted #1

4 Comments on “Things I Take For Granted #1”

  1. anon

    i’m white and lived in chicago for many years, and this kind of thing has happened to me several times. i’ve been aggressively searched 3 times on the street, and arrested once, all because i ‘looked suspicious’. only one time was i with a black person. i dono i think it was cuz i had long hair. but black ppl for sure get hassled more.

  2. Judy

    There are so many dimensions to police stereotyping, but most often it’s based on race and class. It’s certainly not true that only black people are harassed, but they are definitely stopped with more frequency. I would also be shocked to hear that random white people are harassed if they lack another characteristic that police find suspicious, while blackness alone seems to suffice. I have lived in Rogers Park for many years and have witnessed firsthand how much race and class assumptions play into police (mis)conduct. Many times I saw black youth slammed into car hoods and handcuffed for the same things that my college friends (mostly white) and I (asian) did regularly with no repercussions.

  3. anon

    As a person with a funny name, I get this more frequently at airports or any similar related security checkpoints.

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