When news outlets cover the harassment of black children in predominantly white neighborhoods, the narrative inevitable follows a familiar arc. Facts about the child and the circumstance of the harassment are stated before the anchor starts quoting Twitter hot takes surfacing the new hashtagged nickname of whoever called the cops on an innocent child, whether it was #BBQBecky or #PermitPatty. The story fizzles after that. There are no broader discussions of context or community. Whereas coverage of racial incidents in predominantly black neighborhoods tends to focus on those neighborhoods, coverage of incidents in predominantly white neighborhoods tend to suggest that whatever happened was an unfortunate turn of events or the act of a lone jerk.
But many black parents don’t buy the idea that there’s one bad actor in these situations. Though the narrative would be cleaner if #BBQBecky or even George Zimmerman were total exceptions to an egalitarian rule, that does not make it so. For black children, non-black neighborhoods and, in particular, affluent white neighborhoods present real hazards. It is no wonder that a growing number of black parents who can afford to move to more affluent and white areas with better school systems are choosing to keep their children in black neighborhoods.
As a black man who spent his early years in predominantly white neighborhoods, I understand the impulse to self-segregate. My first interaction with the police was around June 2006 when I was 14-years-old. I was wearing a red flannel shirt, a black tie, blue jeans, and a winter cap (admittedly not a great outfit) and taking a walk before school when two local cops pulled up and told me to sit on a corner. A resident of the small Pennsylvania town where I lived had called about a “suspicious character.” That was me.
My first interaction with law enforcement was pretty painless. I gave an address and an explanation. They let me go home. The second interaction wasn’t particularly traumatic either. The third time was fine. The fourth? The fifth? The sixth? The dozenth? The cops weren’t abusive to me, but after a while my interactions forced me to ask and answer an uncomfortable question. Why does this keep happening? I wondered. The answer came back: Because I’m black as shit.
Read the whole story at Fatherly.com.