This story really is not mine to tell - it's my brother's, but as his older sister, I have to say something.
I got a chilling phone call from my brother today. He was shopping in a nationwide retail chain store. (I won't name it but it starts with a W, ends with a T, seven letters long, you figure it out). He was in there shopping when he decided to stop and try out the Dr. Scholl's display. (You know, the one where you can figure out which orthopedic support is best for your feet...) Anyway, he's there, awaiting his turn when he strikes up a conversation with the woman in front of him. Out of nowhere, another woman approaches, ignores my brother, and speaking directly to the woman in front of my brother says, "You really should be more careful with your purse around certain people and maybe you need to put your purse on your shoulder instead of leaving it in your cart like that." WHAT!? If you know my brother, and his flash point temper, you (like me) are cringing in your seat as you read this going, "Oh my God! Is Kevin in jail for murder? Where can I send funds for his trial and criminal defense." Let me stop and tell you GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!
According to my brother (and I have to believe him since he called me from his car and not from a jail cell), he calmly turned to the second lady and said, "Excuse me, but I am not interested in this woman's purse or anything she may have in it and I resent that you would imply something like that based solely on the color of my skin." [Oh, did I forget to mention that BOTH of the women involved in this story were White and my brother is not? But I digress - back to that point in a minute] Before it was all over, the second woman had called over store security and by the time Kevin left the store, had even contacted the police outside the store. Now mind you - the FIRST woman never complained, never felt threatened, and even said this to the store security. All of this came from a SECOND woman who just happened to walk by and for some reason of her own, felt threatened by my brother.
On my brother's behalf, I feel angry, disappointed, angry, disgusted - did I mention angry? Why, even in 2009, do we still judge people by the color of his/her skin? Was there something in the demeanor of a barefooted Black man that makes a woman walking by think (1) that another woman was in danger of getting robbed and (2) that she needed to speak up about it in such a mean way? I told my brother then (and I mean it with all my heart) - you couldn't PAY me to be a Black man in America. Never. Reminds me of an incident YEARS ago when I was walking through a store with my youngest brother Scott and we immediately attracted a walking escort of store security. Scott must have been about 14 years old at the time and when I mentioned our sudden escort, his nonchalant response was, "yeah, that happens all the time. They think we are going to steal something so they always follow me and my friends around the store." REALLY?
That was back sometime in the '80s. But it's 2009 - we have our first African-American President - and yet, my brother still has to hold onto his temper because some misguided woman looked at him, saw a Black man, and decided he was a threat. When will it change? Will it ever change? I had hope in November when Obama was elected and I saw the crowd of people who gathered in the park - the diversity, the joy on everyone's faces - I looked at that and thought, maybe things are changing for the better. But I'm not so very sure anymore. [But then again, I just read pages and pages of people debating whether Michelle Obama exhibited "proper discretion befitting a First Lady" by wearing shorts while on vacation with her family at the Grand Canyon. I think our priorities are all screwed up.]
From a sister's point of view - I'm glad my brother held onto his temper. I'm glad I didn't have to gather bail money. I'm glad I didn't have to spend time sitting at a police station waiting for him to be released - or worse, that I didn't have to identify his body at a morgue if things had gone terribly wrong. And let's not pretend that things like that don't happen - especially in the South.
But most of all, I am sorry that he even had to call me to tell me this story...today...in 2009...when I thought things were getting better.