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.
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?