My truth is I am more terrified for black boys/men in the suburbs than victims of carjackings. It is dangerous for innocent black boys for white people to be afraid of unidentifiable black men:
These are not murders that happened in a vacuum. They happened because “black boys/men scared me” is a justifiable reason to kill them.
And it is not just murdering that happens when people are faced with “black boys/men who scare them.”
They also have to deal with:
Being falsely arrested.
Being beaten by the police.
Having people they thought were neighbors and friends call the police on them, and relationships are broken.
But one of the most difficult things that happens is that black boys and black men, who are residents of this community, are profiled and they have to take countermeasures to appear “unthreatening.”
Which means that, currently, there are black boys who live in Oak Park that are being told not to go down dark alleys because their parents are afraid that someone might misjudge them as a criminal.
There are black boys who live in Oak Park that instead of walking home from school or practice when it is dark, are getting rides from their parents because their parents are afraid for their safety.
There are black men, who take the train every day for work, that are now trying hard to make it home before dark and/or figure out ways to distinguish themselves from “criminals” and make sure that they don’t look or act like “the scary, dangerous black man.”
Yes, there has been a rise in carjackings. Yes, there are black/brown men who are committing crimes and white people have to be safe. But everybody has to be safe. And black boys and men who live in this community need to also feel safe from racial profiling.
It breaks my heart to think of people being scared of my son, husband, nephew, brother, or my friends. Because all black men look the same in the dark and it is even worse for teenagers.
It is hard enough being a black man and trying to be “un-dangerous looking” but add to that bad lighting and a rash of crimes and it is a no-win situation.
My question to the community is this:
Can we take a public stance against racial profiling?
Can we support and protect black kids and youth in the community and allow them the same freedom to explore and be young as the white kids and youth in the community?
Can we offer a support group for young black and brown men on how best to navigate through the community at night as to not raise suspicion?
Can we offer support groups for those who have been the victims of racial profiling?
Is there a way to be vigilant against crime and also make sure not to profile black male residents?
The victims — of all races, ethnicities, and classes — who have been carjacked, aren’t the only victims. A community’s fear of “scary black men” has victimized many innocent black males, many of them just young boys, in the community too.
ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson currently resides in the west suburbs of Chicago with her two school-aged girls and her husband, Brian. She writes a blog at EducationPost.org.