#Charlottesville: And again, Black pain and tears and suffering at the hands of white supremacy

After the car rammed into the crowd of peaceful protesters

And again, Black pain and tears and suffering at the hands of white supremacy is approved and legitimated by whites saying that “they saw it”, and “yes, it definitely was racism”. Perhaps now, people who insisted on replying to the plea that ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter’ and ‘Blue Lives matter’ will understand the depths of white supremacy in this country.

Would the average American–the ones who voted for Trump because they “just wanted a change”– listen to the Black, law abiding, incredibly restrained counter protestors who narrated the racism and Hate and Evil they experienced at the hands of white supremacists if white counter protestors didn’t confirm their stories?

Did the average white American believe Chaney’s murder was motivated by white supremacy and racism only because Goodman and Schwerner were murdered at the same time, for the same reasons, and in the same way?

So, this time, the publicized terror is in Virginia. Maybe for a week or so I won’t be accused by some of my fellow Americans of ‘playing the race card’ when I speak up about, protest against, and survive each day despite our country’s not so secret love affair with white supremacy. Just maybe….

(Photo Credit: Washington Post / AP / Steve Helber)

Charleena Lyles deserved better … from the police and from The Seattle Times

On Sunday, June 18, Charleena Lyles – 30 years old, Black, mother of three, pregnant, Seattle resident – called police to report a burglary. Two white police showed up. Soon after, those two police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles. The next day, on the morning of June 19, I opened my local newspaper, The Seattle Times, only to see a defense of murder on the front page. The headline read: “Mother killed by cops had mental health issues, family says.” This was misleading, prejudiced, and unethical.

First it suggested immediately that having a mental illness is somehow justification for getting shot by police. Second, it bootstrapped its own twisted logic by misrepresenting the response of the family and their communications after the shooting. They have been extremely critical of the police response.

The real story is “Police kill a pregnant woman in response to her call for help.”

How can this happen, and why does it keep happening? Why do the police keep killing black people? How can local police kill not one but TWO Black pregnant women who called for help within the past 9 months?

The Times cannot continue ignoring these obvious questions. They should investigate and report truthfully and ethically, and stop trying to protect the murderers. When they do so, they are complicit in perpetuating these crimes.

Writing last week, the week before Charleena Lyles was gunned down, Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur apparently made readers mad because of the same issues of racial bias and ignorance. In this instance, the racism was directed towards an entire neighborhood and community, Columbia City. Yesterday, Nicole Brodeur apologized. Unlike the lukewarm PR response The Seattle Times issued after reader complaints on the Charleena Lyles coverage, Brodeur’s apology seems heartfelt, sincere, and persuasive. But the apologies belie the problem at The Times. Where is the value in a newspaper that, by its own admission, “lacks sensitivity” in reporting matters of race and gender?

In her apology, Brodeur concluded, “In taking on the issue of crime and gentrification in a single column, I climbed the journalistic equivalent of an Olympic high dive and failed. I need more training … My editor recently asked me whether there was a project I wanted to work on, something long-term. And this just might be it: My own self. My own bias.” Should we all be so privileged to get paid for this work!

As a long-time subscriber and constant Times reader for my 28 years in the city, I’ve supported newspapers for their many virtues, and excused the occasional misstep. But these are not missteps, and are not occasional. The reporting on Charleena Lyles was no misstep. In these urgent times, I can no longer separate The Times from its functional perpetuation of the status quo.

If The Times editors, reporters, and columnists lack the training, skill, or vision to do good journalism, as The Times itself has admitted numerous times this week, they should not be supported.  For that reason, I’ve cancelled my subscription to The Seattle Times, and I urge others to do the same.

 

(Photo Credit: KUOW / Megan Farmer)

#JusticePourThéo: We must end police impunity and call their violence rape

Tongues are starting to loosen after the sexual police aggression on Théo in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France. More young men regularly stopped for ID check have come forward to talk about the violence always more humiliating and sexual, the insults of the police forces. They feel lawlessly trapped. Only 5% of the young people violently searched after ID checks file a complaint.

Moreover, as the press release from feminist group Femmes Solidaires pointed out, “What this crime tells us…is when a man wants to humiliate and dominate another man, he resorts to the same type of brutality as the one used to dominate a woman: rape.” They also note the uneasiness of the media to accurately identify this crime. For Femmes Solidaires, in the scale of police violence, pushing a baton in the rectum of a young man is a most serious crime and feminists must name what happened to Théo and other young men with the right word: rape. They exhort people not to turn a blind eye on this crime and conclude, “Silence tortures, impunity kills, invisibility condemns the victim to relive the same crimes.”

In addition to using rape, the police forces use homophobic and racist slurs regularly. The word “bamboula”, commonly uttered by police, carries its own colonial history. During a TV program, a police union representative admitted that although this word could be considered an insult, it remained tolerable. The anchor immediately reacted, saying “no” it is intolerable. In fact, “bamboula” is undoubtedly racist. As historian Mathilde Larrère explained, Bamboula is the name of a drum, which name became an expression of colonial racism. As she clarified, racism was born from the violence of domination and enslavement of populations to justify this very violence.

These expressions of racism shed light on identity politics as a way to differentiate the rights-bearing population from the rest that loses rights and can be mistreated, attacked and insulted. The ID checks are expressions of identity politics and the use of rape the expression of masculinity as a brutal authority.

Recently, a court decision in Bobigny, asuburb of Paris, on a similar case that occurred in 2015 has clearly stated that from now on a rape with a baton or something else committed by a police officer or not will be judged as a rape instead of violence. That decision signals what many have lounged for: police will no longer be granted impunity.

This is not over and the mobilization against violence and sexual violence cannot end with this decision.  More integrative measures should be taken to break the isolation and sense of abandonment of many “real” French residents who have been left out by the republic.

 

(Photo Credit: Liberation / Denis Allard)

#BlackLivesMatter, this time in France. #JusticePourTheo

Once more police violence makes the headlines. In France, Theo a 22-year-old young resident of Aulnay-sous-Bois, a northern Paris suburban city, was stop-searched by four special forces police officers few days ago. The search was aggressive verbally and physically; the telescopic (expandable) baton of one of the police officer was forced in the anus of the young man. Theo, who is black, was insulted with slang racial words including the N-word.

The police officers sprayed tear gas into Theo’s mouth, then dragged him, handcuffed, to their car. Theo was in excruciating pain covered with his own blood. Once in the police station, another police officer immediately called the SAMU (emergency medical unit). The doctors were appalled to see the damage on his body with a 10cm (3.5 inches) tear in the rectal region, with a perforated rectum; he was rushed to a hospital operating room. His injuries are serious with possible life damage. He has to keep a fecal diversion with colostomy probably for the next few months.

From Aulnay to the rest of France, the outcry was broad. Mothers of “the city of the 3000”, the neighborhood where Theo lives with his family, led demonstrations. Singing the Marseillaise to affirm that France was their nation, they also said that they were fed up with the police acting like “cowboys”. They expressed their immediate concern, demanding if their sons would be the next one to be raped by police. Some said “we are not here to be on television; here we have doctors, engineers, but we are suffocating.”

They want justice not only for Theo but for all the youth of “les quartiers,” these suburban neighborhoods that have been left out of urban policies. Meanwhile, Theo’s case is in the hand of a lawyer ready to address police violence with his case.

A former police union leader, in charge of security for the right wing political party “les Republicains” was recently elected mayor of Aulnay sous Bois. He based his campaign on law and order. Although he extolled the virtue of strong police presence, he condemned this police violence calling it unbearable and unacceptable. He understood that this time the usual argument that the victim because of his police record somehow deserved the treatment inflicted on him would not work as Theo and his entire family have had exemplary lives. In his surprise visit, even President Francois Hollande played the good guy argument in an attempt to calm down the boiling cities fed up with state and police violence.

The delinquent deserving police aggression is a political argument that has been used repeatedly in recent years to justify increasingly violent police intervention and ID checks based on profiling, including statistical profiling.

Theo’s case was referred to the Defender of the Rights, “an independent administrative authority that oversees the protection of rights and freedoms and promotes equality to ensure access to rights”. This authority had warned President Hollande about the unnecessary character and lack of supervision of ID checks, to no avail. In 2016 the Defender of Rights published a report stating that the youth that had the color of Africa, north and sub-Saharan, were 20 times more subject to ID checks. The report documents discrepancies in the treatment of populations, based on appearance, age and location of the control. The numbers show a degradation of the situation in the suburban areas with only 5% of these young pursuing legal actions against police abuse. The president of this authority declared that Theo’s affair was not a short news affair but a societal and political affair. He insisted on the importance to question these “random” ID checks poorly reported with no actual legal justification,” adding that the police of the republic should be the police for equality.

In 2009, the National Center for Scientific Research showed that in general the police control is determined by the clothes worn as well as the color of their skin, rather than something that done by the young people checked.

Part of the stigmatization or disqualification as full human being is in the language and attitude of the state authority. They are systematically addressed with “tu,” the informal you. According to the Defender of Rights, the informal “you” is used in 40% of the control of the young men of these neighborhoods compared to 16% for the general population. They are also insulted in 21% of the cases compared to 7% for the rest of the population.

The vast majority of the ID checks have no legal or investigative basis, but they are very effective in making feel the young person not belonging and always under scrutiny. Despite the recent riots, the inhabitants of these neighborhoods are committed to assert their proud presence against the constant humiliation and stigmatization encountered. People nationwide are supporting their call for dignity.

ACAT, an association dedicated to fight torture, produced a comprehensive review of the situation in France. Between 2005 and 2015, they counted 26 casualties caused by police, of whom 22 were people of color. Last summer, for example, Adama Traoré died in police custody after. The family is still demanding an explanation as to why he died.

Depoliticizing state violence is a way of justifying it. Many reports have demonstrated that something needs to change in the national policies that mistreat and racialize the youth in France. In this electoral period the stakes are high and the struggle to stop the disqualification of citizens calls for solidarity, as the mothers of Aulnay-sous-Bois demanded. It is part of the struggle for immigrants’, refugees’ and women’s rights. In this time of enmity when victims are made the culprits, people in France need to join the resistance.

 

(Photos Credit: Bondy Blog)

The day 15-year-old Jacques Craig learned “how to sit in a police car”

Earlier this week in Fort Worth, Texas, Jacqueline Craig and her daughters, Brea and Jacques, were arrested, in yet another “incident” of police abuse against a Black woman and her children. Brea is 19 years old, and Jacques is 15. The whole thing was caught on video, posted to Facebook, and now the police officer is on restricted duty, the Fort Worth Police Department is scrambling to “keep the calm”, many are expressing “outrage”, and Black folk in Fort Worth can’t see much for the fog of quotation marks that these events raise these days, but they can see that this story would never happened if Jacqueline, Brea and Jacques Craig were White. Meanwhile, there’s Jacques Craig. What has she learned this week? “I didn’t know how to sit in a police car, I’ve never done it before. I was just crying and worried and thinking about how to get out.

Jacqueline Craig called the police to complain about a White neighbor who she said had grabbed her son by the throat, allegedly for having dropped some paper on the ground. Jacqueline Craig told the officer, “My daughter and son came home, saying that this man grabbed him and choked him.” The officer responded, “Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” Jacqueline Craig answered, “He can’t prove to me that my son littered, but it doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t, it doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.” The officer answered, “Why not?”

Why not?

At this point, Jacqueline Craig and the officer are clearly tense, and Jacques Craig, the 15-year-old girl child, stepped forward and between the two, to help defuse the situation: “I am 15 years old. How was I supposed to know I wasn’t supposed to interfere? I was just trying to protect my mom.” Next thing, the officer pulls out his Taser, wrestles the 15-year-old Black girl to the ground, and …

By the end, Jacqueline Craig, Jacques Craig, and Brea Craig were all taken to the police station and processed. The Fort Worth Police Department quickly launched an investigation and released a statement, which read, in part, “The Fort Worth Police Department enjoys a close and cooperative relationship with our citizens; one of transparency, mutual trust and respect. The Fort Worth Police Department expects every officer to treat persons they encounter with that same trust, respect and courtesy. We acknowledge that the initial appearance of the video may raise serious questions. We ask that our investigators are given the time and opportunity to thoroughly examine this incident and to submit their findings. This process may take time, but the integrity of the investigation rests upon the ability of the investigators to document facts and to accurately evaluate the size and scope of what transpired. We ask our community for patience and calm during this investigation process.”

There’s a demonstration tonight in Fort Worth demanding justice and calling for an end to police brutality.

Across the country, from sea to shining sea, Black girls and young Black women face this form of State intimidation every single day. So do Latinx girls and young Latinx women and Native girls and young Native women. This particular officer may be one in Fort Worth, but there’s another in Galveston and another in Phoenix and another in Baltimore and another in Winslow and another in Auburn and another in Frederick County and another one somewhere right around the corner. Think of all those “rogue” police officers as the front line of secondary and tertiary public education for girls and women of color in the United States. What was this week’s lesson plan Jacques Craig? How to sit in a police car. Let’s hope she learns a better lesson.

Posted by Porsha Craver on Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 

(Photo Credit: NBC Dallas Fort Worth) (Video Credit: Facebook / Porsha Craver)

 

 

 

From Dumfries to Dimbaza, the mothers are outraged

Tidiani Epps Jr.'s drawing

Tidiani Epps Jr.’s drawing

Children’s mothers and grandmothers are outraged. They are organizing and refusing to let their children disappear into the night and fog of casual institutional educational violence. They are tired of being tired of the injustice. These are three recent vignettes from the institutional war on children, told in the order of the children’s age.

In Dimbaza, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a ten-year-old child was found to have done something wrong. He was accused of dangling a child over a bridge, a charge that he denies and denied at the time. According to the child, the principal then called on older boys to grab the child, strip him naked and parade him, crying by this point, through and around the entire school. The boy ran home and refused to return for two days. The boy’s mother and grandmother are organizing to have the principal removed and to have the entire matter investigated fully. The mother explained, “I want harsh action taken against the principal. My child was abused and humiliated. He will be traumatised for the rest of his life.”

In Montgomery County, just outside of Washington, DC, 11-year-old Tidiani Epps Jr was given an assignment to draw a picture about what he would like to see stopped or banned. Tidiani drew a picture of a lynching, of a Black man hanging from a tree with two Ku Klux members in attendance. Tidiani Epps Jr is Black. He wants police violence to end: “In this picture, I was trying to describe what was going on in the world, and what happened back then. It’s what happened back then, and a piece of what happened back then is still here today in the present, like racism. I just want it to stop. I don’t want to see this any more. Young black people get killed for no reason. It’s not fair or right.”

The school responded by sending Tidiani to a counselor who called the family and recommended he go to a crisis center for a mental health evaluation. They decided that a young Black child who knows that there is violence in the world and understands he is a key target of that violence must be potentially suicidal. Tidiani’s mother, Sade Green, sees it otherwise. She was livid at the school’s treatment of her child and at what it portends for his future: “My child has to walk to school every day. He is a young black male. He will grow up to be a black man. I have to let them know what’s going on in society. Nobody is safe. What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t try to teach them the rights and wrongs of what’s going on?” What kind of parent, indeed.

On the Virginia side of the Washington, DC, suburbs, in Dumfries, a middle school teenager, Ryan Turk, forgot to pick up his milk carton and returned to correct that. A “school resource officer” saw Ryan take the milk, stopped him and told him to go to the principal’s office. When Ryan refused, the “resource officer” arrested him, put him in handcuffs and charged him with disorderly conduct and petty larceny. Ryan Turk was offered “nonjudicial punishment”, also known as “diversion”, which he and his mother turned down, and so next month, Ryan Turk will stand trial for taking a 65-cent carton of milk that he was supposed to have. Ryan’s mother, Shamise Turk, explained, “My son is not going to admit to something he did not do.”

What are these three children, and all the children around them, being taught? Violence is good; spectacular violence is great; due process is for the birds, unless they’re Black; and no one in charge gives a damn about you. Fortunately, the mothers and grandmothers are outraged and livid, and they’re organizing. They’re refusing “the deals” offered to palliate and silence them. They’re refusing the mis-education of their children and the destruction of the present as well as the future. As 11-year-old Tidiani Epps Jr explained, “It’s not just black lives that matter. Everyone matters, but for right now, in this era, so many black people have been getting killed for no reason. It matters.” It matters.

 

(Photo Credit: Donna St. George / The Washington Post / Fairfield Citizen)

#BlackLivesMatter: Across the Black Atlantic, mourning Black mothers demand justice

Mzee Mohammed

we were two Black women touching our flame
and we left our dead behind us
Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us

Samaria Rice, in Cleveland, and Karla Mohammed, in Liverpool, sit across from each other at opposite ends of the Black Atlantic table, and whisper, speak, shout and howl, “Black Lives Matter.” Samaria Rice’s 12-year-old son, Tamir, was killed by a Cleveland police officer, on November 23, 2014. Karla Mohammed’s 18-year-old son, Mzee, died after being restrained by Liverpool police officers, on July 13, 2016.

Samaria Rice says, “I will never forget that day. Them taking my baby away at 12 years old, I still had nourishment to do for my son. He was only 12. He had just been 12 for five months. I still had a lot of nurturing to do for him, a lot of holding and kissing on him, and stuff like that. I know just 12 years old for a boy is like a turning point. I was guiding him in the right direction. I really was. He was really not a bad kid.”

Karla Mohammed says, “I want to ask the Lord to see justice for my son. I will not rest, I will walk in my son’s shoes until I get answers, and anyone who had a hand in my boy’s death will be brought to justice. My son will not be a number or a statistic. His death will not be in vain. I pray with my heart no mother or father go through what I am now. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. You can’t take the memories, the pictures … my son was not an animal, he was a human being.”

Samaria Rice and Karla Mohammed face each other across the pain filled abyss of their absent sons, Tamir and Mzee. They speak the same language of pain, love, and demanding justice.

This is the Black Atlantic today, from Liverpool to Cleveland and back and beyond, Black Mothers of the Disappeared surrounded by friends and supporters chanting, “Black Lives Matter”. “Black Lives Matter” is the prayer of today’s Black Atlantic. Meanwhile, Mzee Mohammed’s family is raising funds to have him sent to be buried in Jamaica. Karla Mohammed explained, “We’re here for Mzee, not for anybody else. My boy. My soldier boy. My chocolate boy. My baby boy is going to have the biggest send off, but no way on god’s greenery will my boy rest in this city. My boy is going to take his final journey and be entombed in Jamaica where he belongs. When he goes to Jamaica it’s going to open wide and he will fly like a bird. Where the song says three little birds, now there’s four little birds. My boy. My L8 soldier. My chocolate boy.”

Tamir Rice

 

(Photo Credit 1: Liverpool Echo) (Photo Credit 2: Voice of Detroit)

What happened to Sarah Reed? The routine torture of Black women in prison

Sarah Reed

On January 11, Sarah Reed, 32 years old, Black, living with mental health issues and drug addiction, the victim of a famous police brutality case, was “found dead” in her cell at Holloway Prison, north of London. Her death went relatively unreported for almost a month, until the family managed to contact Black activist, Lee Jasper, and so now the reports of “failings” begin. There was no failure. The State got what it wanted: Sarah Reed is dead.

In 2012, Sarah Reed was viciously attacked by a Metropolitan Police officer. The attack was caught on camera, and, in 2014, the officer was dismissed from the force.

In October 2014, Sarah Reed was in a mental health hospital when she allegedly attacked someone. Her family says she wrote to them saying she had acted in self-defense. On January 4, Sarah Reed was shipped over to Holloway Prison, to await trial. While there, according to her family, she received no mental health treatment.

Prison authorities have claimed that Sarah Reed “strangled herself” while in her bed. Her family doubts that narrative. Further, they say they were called to the prison to identify Sarah Reed and then were prevented from seeing her body and were treated “in a hostile and aggressive manner.”

None of this is new, and none of it is surprising. Holloway Prison, the largest women’s prison in western Europe, is slated to be closed, precisely because it is unfit for human habitation. As outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, noted, “Holloway has a fearsome reputation.” When Holloway’s imminent closure was announced, some hoped that the closure would begin a “prison revolution”, but they had forgotten that Holloway had already undergone its revolution. From 1971 to 1985, it had been “completely rebuilt”, and yet it remained a fearsome, loathsome place.

That’s where the State sent Sarah Reed. There was no failure. The State wanted Sarah Reed dead, and Sarah Reed is dead. What happened to Sarah Reed happened to Sandra Bland happened to Natasha McKenna happened to Kindra Chapman happens. Rebuilding the prison never ends, or even diminishes, State torture of Black women. Shut it down.

 

(Photo Credit: Lee Jasper / Vice)

Productively and Respectably Drowning: Black Women’s Fight for Collective Freedom

We are all drowning. We are all drowning while upholding a repressive system that can never provide freedom and justice for all women, a system in which a cycle of violence, suffering, and mass incarceration seems inevitable. We are Black women, arguably the most dehumanized and undervalued identity group. To be Black and also a woman places one in a position of endless performance and scrutiny. It’s tiring and so many cannot meet the standards that are set. Even when some of these benchmarks are met, expectations shift. We’re hunted and no matter what steps we take we are failures. So whom should we blame? Is it the lazy women who simply don’t have the capabilities to succeed, or the system that views them as unworthy, dehumanizes them, and resorts to violence to rid them of any thought of freedom?

The entire system is guilty. Capitalism is committed to the racism and sexism that demeans and imprisons Black women. Despite its violence, the system finds the most creative ways to justify its contradictions and injustices. Imagining a world where everyone recognizes this and strives to make amends is a real challenge. At this moment I feel deeply that there are generations of Black women who have never envisioned freedom. I know deeply that we have invested in a system that continues to fail us.

Since Trayvon Martin was murdered, there has been a slow awakening, or revitalization, of a younger generation that forgot the history of racial oppression that has always existed in this country. Their eyes opened, articles were shared, collective actions were planned, coalitions called for justice. But who is deserving of this justice? The #BlackLivesMatter movement was created by Black women and has progressed due to the efforts and outright fear and anger of Black women around the world. Yet, these women, Black women, are continuously erased from the narrative of state brutality. People of color become synonymous with men of color and the strength of the collective is weakened.

There can only be surface level reform if civil rights activists and everyday citizens feel compelled to protest and cry when Black men like Eric Gardner are brutally murdered by the state, but remain silent as women like Rekia Boyd and Natasha McKenna are tossed away. Why is it easier to mourn the loss of Black men than Black women? Are we convinced that when a woman experiences violence she brought it on herself or have Black women been so dehumanized that they are considered undeserving of justice, of freedom?

Last week, I attended an event in DuPont Circle, Washington, DC, entitled “Vigil for Rekia Boyd, Black Women, Trans Women, and Girls,” and then later in the evening attended a Justice for Freddie Gray march. The vigil in DuPont was amazing because it highlighted the plight of incarcerated and marginalized Black women within the civil rights narrative. There exists a narrative that asks Black women to choose their Blackness and align with Black men on every issue or choose their womanhood and go against Black men. That narrative is beyond trite. Black women are always both: Black and woman. Those identities cannot be separated and does not excuse a submission to patriarchal tendencies of Black male leaders. Together, in a space with women of color, everyone flourished. Voices that had been squashed spoke their truths and the need for continual spaces of mutual understand was highlighted.

So, we fight. Once we collect one golden moment and can begin to picture what collective freedom involves, we want more. The fight is not easy. Black women are hunted, disregarded, and divided. Does a single mother working a minimum wage job have the same time to envision freedom as a full-time student whose only real job is to consume knowledge? These are extremes but they must be considered when we speak about the collective and teaching empowerment. Some people live in fear that they have more to lose than others.

It’s all so heavy. What a burden, to be targeted, devalued, yet expected to perform to standards that are always shifting. So we drown, we come up for air momentarily, and then we sink again. Collective freedom will not come instantaneously. It’s a process that will take generations and generations but the goal is to break away from chains that have held us down for centuries. We deserve more than survival. We deserve freedom from capitalism, a system that divides us and perpetuates racism, sexism, and patriarchy. Regardless of status or educational level, Black women have been expelled from the dominant political economy and we must find new spaces of hope. We have been controlled by a violent empire and denied tenderness and understanding.

If more spaces for Black women open up in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Black women may be able to create their own space and discover tenderness as freedom. Tenderness as currency. Tenderness as motivation to collaborate. Tenderness to bring about change. Tenderness that is hard and critical; tenderness that allows all us to inhale and find comfort in each other.

 

(Image Credit: Black Left Unity Blog blunblog.org)

No Black children allowed!

 

Schools are segregated. So groups of kids who gather together after school are often homogenous. In the sliver of Washington, DC where I live, this means groups of high schoolers and middle schoolers are Black, while the kids on toddler playgrounds are white.

Corner stores have dealt with this gentrification in the typical ways: They have begun to stock kombucha, organic almond milk, and craft beer. They have taken the bullet-proof partitions down. And they have banned anyone under the age of 18 from coming into their stores after 3PM without their parents.

3PM means after school. And kids who are not with their parents are those who are old enough to be out on their own. Combine this with the racial dynamics of the neighborhood and you’ve got a community full of Black kids who are not welcome in neighborhood stores.

This is not the case in all neighborhoods. It is the case in mine.

Last night we sent my 10-year-old daughter and her friend to the corner store to pick up some cooking oil so we could get dinner ready. She carried a reusable shopping bag and a $20 bill, and walked three blocks to the store where we have shopped since she was a baby. When they got there, the shop owner turned them away, citing the 3PM policy.

We paused when they came home empty-handed. My daughter is biracial and her friend is Black, and this is one of the many times when a parent has to wonder how much that matters. So we called a white friend and asked her to send her son to the same store. He went in by himself, and came out with gummy bears.

My partner and I separately had long conversations with the store owners after this. It felt like a bunch of busy words filled up the air while we spoke. This couldn’t possibly have happened, they said. Or the kids must have gotten mixed up and gone to a different store by mistake. Or they must have done something wrong while they were in the store.

These are small businesspeople. I know they work long hours and they have been friendly to us in the past. They probably have families of their own to protect. But they turned away 10-year-old kids trying to buy cooking oil. I have no idea what is in their hearts and minds, nor do I care. What I have is evidence that the 3PM policy has turned into a cognitive finger-snap for them. They see Black kids in the store [snap!], they send them away. They see a white kid, they allow him to spend his money.

To help register the impact that we and our neighbors hope to make by not shopping at this store anymore, the kids have made stamped postcards with the market’s address on them. They say, “Because you turn Black kids away, we have chosen to spend our money at a different store today. We spent $______.” Let’s hope their mailbox fills up, and their cash register empties out.

 

(Image Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images / Washington Post)