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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Profiling: how may I help you, sir?

Yea, the cartoon is a lil extreme but lets be real....I stay conscious of it.  I can't help was the way I was raised.  It's not like I walk around asking myself how do people view me...but if someone reacts unusually to me ...then the light bulb goes off ...the red flag pops up and I hear the bells.  We have a Racial Profiler on the loose.

Now that I live in Manhattan, I'm extremely keen to it.  I'm sure most people see me for who I am.  Let me repeat that...I'm sure MOST people see me for who I am.  But let's face it...there are a select few who at first glance only see my skin color, my kufi, or my beard.  And probably after they get to know me...I'm just plain ol' ME.

But its frustrating...and frankly I'm getting a little tired.  I know this in no way shape or form compares to what my parent generation went through but you'd like to think now that we have a Black President, American's would not be so quick to negatively judge people based upon their looks.  Not be so quick to assume your in the wrong place.  Not be so quick to ask, how may I help you? when you enter your own apartment building. "Man, I live here!"

It's often very suttle.  But the argument occurs when you ask, "Would this have happened if I were White...if I had no kufi....if I wore no beard?"

Tell me what you think:  (Now mind's not alot of people who look like me walking around who aren't maintenance workers.)  I'm coming back from riding my bike (about 4pm ...its not dark) and I am returning it to the bike shed were I pay an annual fee to lock my bike.  I see a man with his bike in front of me, who actually is one of my Professor's and has given me several lectures.  He has already opened the gate to the shed with his ID card and held the gate open for ME to bring in my bike.  I said thanks and proceeded to lock up my bike as usual.

After the guy locks up his bike he walks over to me and asks, "Do you have and ID?"

I said with a confused face, "Yea..."

Then he says, "Well, can I see it because I always ask for an ID when I let people in..."

Baffled and alittle taken back, I show him my ID along with my highly disturbed facial expression...and he yells, "Oh! It's you, I know you.  I see you around all the time."

"Uh, yea..."  And that was that...he leaves me still confused, standing there with lock and ID in hand.

I think to myself:

1. Whoa...wait...what are you security??  If you were so concerned about an ID why didn't you ask me when you held the door open for me?

2. Why the hell would I NOT have an ID?  I'm locking up my BIKE.  How would I be able to get back in to retrieve my bike if I didn't have an ID?

3. Did I really look that suspicious bringing in my bike to lock up? (, I had a hoodie on because it was cold).

Maybe, I'm over-reacting but I've noticed one thing....It really all depends on how I'm dressed.  I get the how may I help you questions only when I'm wearing a hoodie or jeans.  If I'm in kaki's or slacks...I rarely get the are you lost looks or you must be visiting face.  The unfortunate part is that many of my classmates wear hoodies but I doubt if they get profiled.  Um...can I not get throan in a class of Hoodlem when I walk around my job?


Veya said...

I don't think you're overreacting.

Did you have that Professor only for large lecture classes? Regardless, he obviously has no common sense holding the door, then recognizing your ID but not your face. Mistaking the identity of a Black men remains a valid excuse for officers to chase, beat, shoot and/or kill one. (Your cartoon is the truth, not extreme). Would you consider sending this blog post to your Prof.? Is there any way to gently tell people at your job how they act?

My (white) father was mugged about 4 times in NYC in the 80's by black men. My (black) mother was with him one of those times, and the police actually grabbed HER as she tried to follow them.

Humans make mistakes, but our (il)legal system acquitted the officers who killed Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. Ousmane Zongo's killer was found guilty and lost his job as a police officer, yet did ZERO jailtime. Maybe because all Zongo did was run into a dead-end, instead of reaching for his wallet?? And how can a Black man only possibly be considered a victim if he was unarmed when the police shot him??

Mo said...


I empathize with you completely. I get that too. Especially at GW. I can't even tell you of some of the stupid comments and questions that I get from EDUCATED people. Last semester I was sitting in class before it began and one of my classmates (white dude) asked me if I knew where to get weed? REALLY tho? Hmmm I wonder what about my demeanor told him I knew where to get weed. The hijab, the notes I was reading, or my laptop bag? The sad part is that he didn't find anything wrong with the question.

In my program I come across several really smart people who are have NO cultural sensitivity. There was one class where we had a guest lecturer from Eastern Europe talking about domestic abuse and during the question session a classmate asked, "How do you counter affect the Qu'ranic teachings that promote wife-beating, when interacting with the people?" What?!? Thankfully the lecturer had an Islamic background and corrected her, even so a few of the Muslim students in the class felt the need to address it as well. And this is some of the lighter issues. I've heard people in my program say that they don't like being around people of different cultures, people who are unlike them.... then what the HELL are you doing in GLOBAL health? I'm sorry, but it irks me to no end. And wallahi, if I hear one more person bad mouth Africa... lol.

You know all in all, I am grateful that I came because at Howard I was living in a bubble, and this, this sadly is real life. We all have to be vigilant and aware. Being profiled comes with the territory nowadays, so part of me isn't surprised when i'm stopped and double ID checked. I'm still annoyed as mess but not surprised. Take care bro.

thelegacymaker said...

Thanks for your comments and feedback guys...


All my graduate school classes have been fairly small like 6 or 7 people (with a few exceptions). HE taught once and we've had a few interactions since then. I don't think I have the courage to address any profiling issues with people because its too soon in my career. I don't want to be labeled as "that guy who's sensitive". It may do more damage then good and I'm not prepared to take that risk at this moment.

Very sorry to hear about your parents. One thing that I realize is that there is a fine line between this sort of thing, especially when you feel threatened. Its plenty of times where I've seen a group of black boys in a dark alley with hoodies and thought that they're up to no good. And much of the time I've been right. I think that circumstances and awareness of culture really differentiates those who racially profile from those who don't.

The police and their issues is a whole 'nother post.


I've gotten the weed question before too. But yea...nothing about your appearance or dress tells anyone that you know when to get some dro. LOL Thats like asking a nun. Thats very disrespectful.

Good that you are there to educate the ignorant. I think howard is more like a womb than a bubble. If you stay can grow and develop to compete and survive in the real world. I wish you the best in your program and may Allah make it easy on you. Salaams

Sulayman said...

Nice comic, it really says a lot.

Sorry to hear that happened to you bro. It's stuff like that that makes me afraid to live outside New York, I worry it's worse elsewhere.

thelegacymaker said...

Yea...NYC is special for the fact that people are really 'accepting' here more than other places. I worry about my younger sister who is the only Muslim female (who covers) in her school. Courage.

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