Saturday, July 4, 2009

Banks Too?

Can't a brother go anywhere without having to see the barrel of a gun?

It's bad enough that I'm in danger when I'm driving, or at the club, or walking down the street. But, it turns out I can't even go to the bank to handle my financial business without coming face to face with the business end of a police officer's service weapon.

Check out this story for more details on what's got me miffed.

As you can see, what we have here is another example of the dangers of being black in a public place. These two cats went to the bank to do some business, were deemed a threat, and came face to face with machine guns. Just a regular day at the office for a black man.

If I wanted to have a blog solely dedicated to chronicling cases of mistaken identity and racial profiling for black folks, it wouldn't be that hard. Everyday black people somewhere are reminded that they are deemed a threat simply because of the color of their skin.

It's an interesting tightrope black folks walk. We have to make decisions about our clothes, our cars, even our names, with one eye on the stereotypes associated with being black. It's not enough for us to strive to be comfortable and happy in our own skins because our skin is often the problem. Sure, everybody worries about their image, but it seems like black folks have a special cross to bear.

Some of y'all may have heard about the recent controversy regarding two of the characters in the Transformers movie. From what I can gather, the two characters embody all of the popular stereotypes about black "gangstas." The thing is, when some folks pointed out these problems to director Michael Bay, he basically said "This is the way things really are. We're just trying to do something that's real."

I see that mindset a lot. People justify the use of stereotypes by claiming that they are only being "real." They say if black folks don't want to be labeled as criminals, they should stop committing crimes. They say if we don't want to be considered freeloaders, we need to get off welfare. Everybody wants to shift the blame for their actions to someone else.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of people refusing to stand up and be accountable for their own lives and choices. I'm tried of people thinking that stereotypes are acceptable if they're "funny" or based in some truth. I'm tired of people failing to see the forest because they are focused on the one pine tree in their paths.

There is a price to pay for racial profiling. Everyday, black people in this country pay that price. We pay with our time, our dignity and, sometimes, our lives.

I'm tired of paying.



MacDaddy said...

Big Man, it couldn't have been said better. You speak truth. As black men, we live with these stereotypes everyday. And sometimes we now longer live at all. Bless you, brother.

Deacon Blue said...


I've been getting a little heated on this and related issues over at my blog too. Just had a blow-up today in my comments section over some of the brand of ignorance that you've cited here.

It's messed up to be judged almost solely on how you look, and then told it's YOUR job somehow to fix the problem with OTHER people's perceptions.

cinco said...

Yes this is a big problem that is often overlooked or denied.

I think that racial profiling is what many that are not a minority just don't get. Too often society never let's you 'forget' that you are Black. Every damn day you're scrutinized because of your color.
It's a damn pain in the ass!

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Its true there is a huge weight with being black and even more so a black man. I just came home from Padre with my family and at the checkin point they waved me through but my cousins fiancé had his trunk checked, even though he was in the car with her and two kids. Black man is always in the suspicious character lit.

I'm not so sure about the keepin it real argument. I mean I get it. However if black people stopped doing everything considered stereotypically black. World would still treat us the same or find something negative about the new behavior.

Good post!


Lisa J said...

OG, they find something new that is negative. Everything we do is pathologized. Always. I only got a few comments in on their comment section b4 someone accused us of breeding like jack rabbits and bringing racism on our selves. Even though blacks have the same approx birth rates as whites and our percentage of the population has hovered at around 12-13% for quite some time. They also said whites are a minority but that is not even close to being true. Even in 25 years or so when they are, they will be one minority in many and they will still be the largest group it is just that when you add Blacks, Latinos (of all colors), Asians and Native Americans together as a whole all of those groups will together make the majority. Still there will be more people with white skin than with black skin.

Deacon Blue said...

Can't let logic and facts get in the way of outrageous rhetoric and fearmongering, can they, Lisa J?

It's the same kind of thing that allows them to brand "Obamaholics" as people who outright worship the president...while continuing to hold up Palin as a presidential material after her childish resignation doesn't count as worship somehow...

slate said...

I read you regularly, comment nearly never. I was, however, intrigued by this post.

I worked in film for many years. When the Paul Haggis movie "Crash" was released, I want to say 2005, but could be wrong, I remember watching it and thinking that Terrence Howard's character had to filter every single thing he did through the prism of being black. He couldn't just be a director, with his own vision. He had black people saying he was stereotyping, he had white producers saying he wasn't stereotyping enough. Every single frame he shot, every single thing he did, had to be filtered through the prism of his skin color rather than his directoral vision.

I had watched it with some white men. I mentioned this to them. They didn't get it. I said, of course they wouldn't, they didn't have to filter everything, never had to and never would have to, so they couldn't possibly get it. These were intelligent guys, sensitive guys, socially aware guys, but they couldn't understand what I was talking about.

I was thunderstruck at their obtuseness. Clearly, since I'm still remembering that conversation today.

We can cross a lot of racial divides, but that kind of filtering of everything in one's life is something no American white person can possibly truly understand.

Big Man said...


Thanks for a wonderful anecdote.

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