Wise Words From a Decent Man

Archive for the month “February, 2016”

Running to School While Black

I was born with a target on my back & chest. The chances of me being arrested or murdered by a police officer are very high. This is true for every other Black boy and Black man. Will we ever live in a time when police aren’t treating Black men as  animals they have to shoot down or cage, as if we need to be tamed?

On Friday, November 7, 2014, I woke up excited to interact with my high school students (as I do everyday). On Tuesday through Thursday, classes start at 8:30am (arrival window is 8:00-8:25). On Monday and Friday, classes start at 10:30(arrival window is 10:00-10:25). We are very strict with our late policy. If students are a minute late they are sent home. However, we make exceptions. Apparently, our school is not like many other high schools.

When students are “running” late they run down the street to make it on time. Me and a few other staff members stand outside welcoming students every morning and celebrate them getting to school on time as if they won the 400m race in the Penn Relays.

On Friday morning, myself and another staff member were taking our daily breakfast run to the store across the street as we noticed one of our students running as if a cheetah was chasing him. He sprinted pass me and ran into the school building.

It wasn’t a cheetah chasing him. It was police officers. Three police cars pulled up to the school seconds after he went into the building. One of the cars had a female student in the back of the car. I immediately asked the officer why one of my students was in the car. The officer ignored my question and ran into the school with 3 other officers. At this time, about 7 other police cars pulled up in front of the building along with a patty wagon. All of the officers got of their vehicles and ran into the school. You would think one of the officers called for back up, telling other officers that a black boy was running with a gun. Did they?!

At this point, I didn’t want breakfast. I ran back into the school to see what was going on and there were 20 police officers running rampant through the school like escaped zoo monkeys; looking for a student who was running to school. I called the Director of Student Life to tell him what was happening and he asked me to bring the officers to his office because the student was with him.

I lead three of the police officers to the directors office and while walking to the office, I told the officers that the student was relaxed and they could just walk in calmly. That fell on deaf ears. The officers barged in and slammed the student on the director’s desk and quickly put him in cuffs. The director and I immediately yelled at the officers telling the to ease up and relax. Of course they didn’t.

The officers escorted the student out of the office and up the hallway. I assumed that they were walking to the elevator but they stopped, telling him never to run from police, pressed him up against the wall and searched him. The director and I tried to explain our late policy and that we have students who run to school when they’re late. They ignored us. While being searched, the student was yelling “I don’t got nothing!! I don’t got nothing! Please don’t put nothing on me!!” After searching him, (finding nothing) they escorted him out of the building and into the back a police car. Strangely, when the put him into the car they let the other student who was being held out of the car. She hugged me and repeatedly said “I just want to be in school!!” I walked her to her case manager and walked down to my office.

Once I got to my desk, I broke down and cried. Seeing all of that felt unreal. The police criminalized those students because they were Black. The police were suspicious of the student who ran into the building, because he was Black. These two students did nothing wrong and all they wanted to do was get to school on time.

I called the student a few hours later and to my surprise he answered the phone. He told me he was okay and wanted to apologize for bringing so much commotion into the school. I immediately explained that the whole police district owed him and the school an apologize for the way they acted.

I’m worried that because he’s had so many negative interactions with police officers that he feels like a criminal no matter what he does (because he’s a Black male), ESPECIALLY IF HE’S RUNNING TO SCHOOL.

At What Point Will More Black Men Stand Up to Street Harassment?


As I read the news of yet ANOTHER horrendous assault and murder of a black woman who had the audacity to rebuff the overtures of a dusty stranger who felt entitled to her attention and body, I have to wonder…when will the men as a collective take this as seriously as say, police brutality? When will the blatant misogyny reach a critical enough mass to be something that will be addressed on hip hop radio shows, NOI mosques, street corners, Twitter, and by black male actors, sports starts and other influencers?


Janese Talton-Jackson, 29 years old, and mother of three was shot dead when dusty, ashy Charles Anthony McKinney  approached her with interest at a bar. She wasn’t interested, but he followed her out anyway and continued his unwanted, and presumably uninvited pursuit. She again rebuffed him, and in his outrage, he shot her in the chest, killing her.

When we hear stories like this, it very difficult to continue to downplay the pervasiveness of this, especially when I and countless black women I know have been subjected to bullying men who feel they are entitled to our time and attention simply because we share skin color. Let’s be honest. These same ‘dusty ashies’ aren’t accosting white and Asian women like they feel free to do so with black women. It’s that false familiarity, that “hey sista!” attitude that makes these dudes take liberties they wouldn’t with others.

What I wish is that more men like Damon Young, editor at Very Smart Brothers, would speak up for the verbally assaulted, bruised, battered, and murdered women who have fallen victim to a cultural practice that seems to be consistently escalated.

And this, again, is fucking scary. Not just because of how frequently this happens. But also because I know there will be people — men and women — who’ll hear about this murder. And will immediately think “Well, she must have said something disrespectful” or “She didn’t have to embarrass him by saying no. Just give him a fake number” or “How was she dressed?” or “What was she even doing out that late in Homewood?” As if this — men responding to disinterest with violence — wasn’t epidemic. As if any of this was her fault. And as if “What could she have done to prevent this?” matters at all, and “What can and should men do to stop men from doing this?” — which, ultimately, is the only relevant question here — doesn’t.

I think that the next time I read on someone’s Facebook wall that we black women are squawking for some harmless public social interaction customary in the black community, I might need to create a list of all of them and post it on this blog along with their photos, so women know who they are and stay the hell away from them.

Remember the 18 year-old-(barely) woman who was gang-raped by five boys in Brooklyn who ran her father off in a park in Brooklyn? This stuff keeps happening again, and again and again, and the reality of the danger black women face within the black community should be addressed in some collective, assertive, and meaningful manner. Not just by a few enlightened brothers, but all of them.



A Moment Back in Black History

Feb. 1, 1960 | Black Students and the Greensboro Sit-In

Library of Congress New York World-Telegram & Sun Photograph Collection Ronald Martin, Robert Patterson and Mark Martin at their protest at the lunch counter at a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960.

On Feb. 1, 1960, four black college students, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond and Ezell Blair, sat down at a “whites-only” lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C., and refused to leave after being denied service. Additional students joined them over the following weeks and months, and sit-in protests spread through North Carolina to other states in the South.

The New York Times reported on the growing movement in its Feb. 15 edition. It noted: “The demonstrations were generally dismissed at first as another college fad of the ‘panty-raid’ variety. This opinion lost adherents, however, as the movement spread from North Carolina to Virginia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee and involved fifteen cities. Some whites wrote off the episodes as the work of ‘outside agitators.’ But even they conceded that the seeds of dissent had fallen in fertile soil.”

Segregated lunch counters were common in the South because of numerous Jim Crow laws, which also kept public buildings and sites like libraries, parks, theaters, swimming pools and water fountains segregated. The sit-in protests drew public attention to these injustices through non-violent civil disobedience.

Reactions to the sit-in protesters varied by restaurant. In many places, groups of white men gathered around the protesters to heckle them and there was occasional violence. “In a few cases the Negroes were elbowed, jostled and shoved. Itching powder was sprinkled on them and they were spattered with eggs,” The Times reported. “At Rock Hill, S.C., a Negro youth was knocked from a stool by a white beside whom he sat. A bottle of ammonia was hurled through the door of a drug store there. The fumes brought tears to the eyes of the demonstrators.” Many managers closed their counters rather than deal with the protests.

The sit-ins helped to draw young people into the civil rights movement and create new leaders and organizations. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which would become an influential organization in the movement, was founded at a conference of sit-in leaders.

The sit-in protests were successful in integrating lunch counters, including the Greensboro Woolworth’s, which gave in to to the protesters in July 1960. Four years later, segregation of public places was made illegal when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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