On White Fears and Black Freedoms

starbucksThe story is old. A white woman’s fear costs a black man his freedom.

The story is old. White woman sees black man where she does not want him to be and tells him to leave. You don’t belong here. Used to be a sidewalk. Now it’s a coffee house. Implicit bias? Overt bias? It really doesn’t matter.

They say no, we’re waiting for someone, we aren’t ready to order. Well, you need to buy something. Why? We’re waiting for someone. Their voices deep, powerful. But not aggressive. Who are we bothering? She gets mad, as their refusal triggers — fear? anger? resentment? Again, it doesn’t matter.

Well, if you don’t leave I’m calling the police. Bluffing? Maybe. The thought of the police should be enough for a black man to go scurrying. But they say, I am not your Negro. Call them. We aren’t doing anything wrong. Not that it matters.

The story is old. She saves face. Used to be she would call her daddy who calls the lynch mob. You’ll learn your lesson.

The story is old. The police arrive. Full uniform. Including handcuffs, badges. Guns. What’s the problem, the cops ask the men. Why are you asking us? Ask her. I asked you. But we didn’t call you. She did.

Three times, the cops say later, three times we asked you to leave. Get out of this place where you don’t belong, where they don’t want you. See the sign? “We have the right to refuse service to anyone.” We, say the cops, are doing nothing wrong, just acting professionally. Remember, we could have arrested you from the very beginning. We don’t really want to arrest you. You should just allow us to let the white woman’s emotions determine where you should be.

Ain’t this some shit? But even the white man who you were waiting to meet can’t get the officers to back down. Nor the white patrons. All they can do is be a witness, tell the story afterwards. Show the video. Because the police have to save face too. They’ll say you refused to obey an order. The story is old. You didn’t jump off the sidewalk quickly enough.

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