Soul food...for lone wolves and wild women everywhere...


Arizona, USA
March 10
Cynthia Dagnal-Myron is an award-winning former reporter for both the Chicago Sun Times and Arizona Daily Star whose articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, Salon, Working Mother, Orion and many others. During her Sun Times years, she traveled with and interviewed the top rockers, film stars and other celebrities of the 70’s and 80’s. And dated Arnold Schwarzenegger. Once. Her latest book, "The Keka Collection," is available at and Barnes and Noble--Kindle and Nook versions available. Her latest short story, Deadline, is a Kindle book availabled here:

JUNE 26, 2012 2:25PM

For Trayvon and Emmett: My "Walking While Black" stories

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As I wrote a few days ago, in anticipation of the demise of Open Salon, I installed a Firefox addin, DownThemAll, which promised to "batch download" most of my blog posts at the click of a mouse.

It did.  And it also sucked all of them down from Open Salon permanent.  I will be reposting them as they were that day, comments and all.  What really hurts is that the stats they had--this one had reached over 30000 views--are now wiped out, too.

You may comment again, of course, 'way down at the bottom.  But...the damage is done.  I just want them all back up here for "history's sake."  I do have copies and Google offered up cached versions that I could snatch the html code from.

So here's the Trayvon piece that landed me on Democracy Now, eventually...



 Donna Summer does the "Working Girl Beep"

Young Keka

  Me, back when I heard that beep 'way too often...

I’m not going to comment on the 911 calls, the police negligence or the firestorm that followed Trayvon Martin’s death.

I’m just going to tell you why I’m not shocked that it happened or that the man who shot Trayvon Martin wasn’t arrested.  And why even knowing all that…hearing him screaming for help seconds before he was murdered made me cry bitter tears.

And brought back the memory of another dead black boy, whose mother I knew and still admire for the electrifying and unforgettable lesson she taught us in his name.

I’m just pouring out my soul here, so it’s gonna be kinda ugly.  But so is what happened to Trayvon.

“Walking While Black” has been an issue since…slavery.   But if you’re black woman walking in certain places at certain times…there’s a little twist to that “offense”.  Here are my “walking while black” stories.

And every black woman I know has at least one or two just like them.   The sole difference between Trayvon’s story and ours is that we usually live to tell ours.   But sometimes…we’re too ashamed…

Working Girl—the gist of it all

This is the basic story.   The better stories, variations on this theme, follow.

As a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times, I was often out late at night or in the wee hours of the morning covering stories or taking a late shift…whatever the job required.  And I lived in a very popular and very congested area of Chicago at the time, where it was nearly impossible to park, even late at night.

So I tended to take cabs or buses—especially in winter when my car was invariably buried in huge drifts of snow.   I always stood on relatively busy corners, but I was usually the only woman out so late/early.  

But even if there was lots of traffic and people walking or even standing there with me waiting for that bus…I knew it wouldn’t be long before I got the “working girl beep.”   Especially if I was well dressed for some sort of gala event or more formal setting…or, actually, even if I wasn’t particularly well dressed.

Black men would beep and wave, or call out a hearty, “Go ‘head, Shorty!” and keep going.  Not one ever pulled over.  Only white men did that.

If he was a young man driving what he thought was a hot car, he’d  ease up to me and give me a little once over and a smile, waiting for me to tip on over and run down my “menu.”  IF I hadn’t already started walking toward the next bus stop or back toward my building.

On occasion, I would just look away, and wait and see if I got the, “Oh, what?   You too good for me?  You think you’re too good for me, (fill in any obscene or insulting racial epithet here)!   F*** you, anyway!” 

Sometimes, they went into a loud, livid diatribe about how maybe I only liked those big black…well…you get the picture.   But whatever they said, I learned to take off running  if the streets were really deserted, because they invariably came back to try again and cuss even more if I still ignored them.

Older white guys cruised me nervously and usually did not speak.   I always felt as if they were married and either new to cruising or just had better instincts than the younger ones, and knew in their hearts that I wasn’t really “in the life”.   So they usually sped off as soon as I turned my gaze away.

But aside from the cussing, I was never actually threatened…or, not with violence.  And that leads me to:

The Beverly Hills Hotel incident—followed by another one just like it but ‘way more serious

This first one is one of my favorites.  The ones that follow still make my blood boil.

But the “funny” one first.

I was staying at the very famous Beverly Hills Hotel, the Pepto Bismol pink second home to sooooo many stars I won’t even go there right now.  Except to add that at the time I was there, wanna be stars used to have themselves paged in the pool area, just so that they could strut their stuff past all the agents and managers and directors and whatnot that hung out there.

It wasn’t cheap, but it was a great place to stay if only because when you told someone you were staying there, they kinda freaked out a little bit.   And this one time I was there just to be there—not working, just resting and having an LA adventure without a deadline to meet.

And while I was there, a huge mansion just a couple of blocks away had become the talk of the town.  It had been bought by a Middle Eastern billionaire who had promptly painted it a garish green, and had all of the nekked statues around the grounds and fountains made more “true to life,” with flesh colored paint and black pubic hair.

I wish I was kidding.  But I’m not.  I saw it with my own two eyes.

Because one day, having found out exactly where this house was, I decided to take a stroll and get a good look.  And I got there without any problem.   I did a slow stroll past the train wreck to get a good look, and then walked a up aways before crossing the street to walk back on the other side of the street, for one last look to confirm that I’d really seen what I’d seen.

And on my way back, I was followed and then stopped by an LAPD cop—I still believe it was because someone saw me and called 911.

He got out and stood in the street by his squad car giving me a pretty icy glare.  And then he  asked me where if I worked for someone “around here.”

I told him I didn’t.

So he asked me where I was headed.

I told him.

And then he smiled a little.  A real smarmy, “NOW, I get it,” smile.   And I remembered that a lot of the women in the lobbies and bars of the best hotels were “on the take,” so to speak.

I didn’t smile back.

So he asked me if he called the front desk would they ring my room or…something like that.

I said, “That’s a great idea.   Give ‘em a call.”

And when his face turned to stone, I realized I’d made a big mistake.

He explained to me in a very serious voice that a “stranger” walking up and down the streets in that particular neighborhood was always “kinda suspicious.”

And then he walked around the car and leaned against it.

“Can I see some ID?” he asked.

I thanked God then and there that I had brought my wallet along—why I had brought it, I have no idea, but it was in my pocket.   So I produced, for his viewing pleasure…

My Chicago Sun Times press card.

Oh, snap.

He stared at it for a long time, his expression now rather befuddled.   I think he was trying to figure out if it was counterfeit or something.

And then he looked up and said, “I call this number, they’ll know you?”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and just said, “That’s another good idea.”

Which…was as bad as rolling my eyes would’ve been.   And if I’d been a black male…I probably would’ve been thrown on the car or the ground and handcuffed right about then.

But he was turning really, really red in the face.  And he started to explain, without the smirk, that it really was true that people didn’t usually walk around a lot “over this way.”  It made people kinda nervous.  And of course…it was a woman, walking up and down, so…

I didn’t  ask him to complete that thought.   But he had another one for me.

“You’re not gonna write about this, right?” he asked me.  Sincerely rattled.

It was my turn to do the smirky smile.

I said, “Nah.  Probably not.”

The “probably” was just to rattle him a little more.   It did.

“Seriously, I just was makin’ sure, you know?   These people around here, they get jumpy. “

I didn’t  respond to that.

So he said, “I mean…c’mon, you’re not gonna call and tell ‘em…”

I told him it wasn’t that big a deal.   And he exhaled...and told me to be careful about “that stuff” from now on, before rushing back to that driver’s seat and pulling away.   And even after all that, he went kinda slow until I strutted into the lobby.

Poor thing, I bet he waited a good long while for his boss to call him into his office and give him hell for harassing a reporter.  But I kept my word about our little encounter.  Until now.

A variation on that theme:

I’ll cut to the chase.  I was taking a short cut through a rather wealthy suburb of Chicago on the way back to the Sun Times after a concert, when I stopped at a light, and a squad car “whooped” and pulled up beside me.

The cop pointed to the curb, so when the light changed, I pulled up and over.  And he got out, walked up to my window and told me it was kinda late for me to be out driving around.   And asked me, with one of those smirky smiles, if I lived “in town here.”

I said, “No,” and he smiled a little more and said, “I didn’t think so.”

He kinda complimented me on my “real sharp” outfit.   And then he sort of leaned down ‘way too close to my face, and said, “You know…if you’re nice to me…you can be on your way, no problem.”

I was angrier than I could say or show at that moment.   This was the kind of no-win situation no woman wants to be in.  And that too many women of color find themselves in far too often.

That’s when I decided not to wait for him to ask for ID.  I said, “Look, I’m a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times and I’m reviewing a show--see that press thing on my dash there?”

He craned.  And indeed, I did have a press parking pass that I could use to park almost anywhere I wanted when I was on the job.

I also showed him my press card.  And given that this was very near Chicago…he got really, really scared.  The Sun Times had a reputation for doing exposès on all kinds of corruption in the area.  They had even bought a bar and put hidden cameras in it, to catch cops and government officials taking bribes.

So he was sure he was on “candid camera,” too, I think.   And he said almost the same thing the other cop had said.

“Aw Jeez.   You’re not going to write about this, are you?”

I didn’t have time to play with this one—I had a deadline.  So I said, “I’ve got bigger fish to fry, believe me.”

And he was so glad I’d said that that he didn’t even realize that I’d just sort of wised off to him.  He told me to drive safely (I love that part) and took off.  I checked my mirror a few times to see if he was following me, but he absolutely wanted no trouble.

Walking a dog while black

I should’ve seen this coming.   The Oro Valley, AZ police had already questioned my ex-husband one day when he was sitting outside of our apartment waiting for our daughter to come out for a day with Daddy. 

When I went outside to find out why Dad was being questioned, I was told that there’d been a few robberies around our way lately and--get ready, because they really do say this—Daddy  “…fit the description.  Hispanic male, kinda tall…thin…”

“He’s not Hispanic.  He’s Hopi,” I said.  Which…didn’t really matter since the cop wouldn’t have known the difference, really.

But it caught him up short anyway.   And after a few more lame excuses, he looked at our daughter who’d come outside to find out what was going on, and loped back to his squad car and left.

Again, this shouldn’t have surprised me.  A few weeks before that, a few of my Hispanic and black students  started walking from the “snob school” a few blocks from our apartment  hoping to escort me to the championship game they were playing.

They never got there.   A cop followed and then stopped them.   And when they explained who they were, he glared at them even harder.

But he turned around and headed back toward the school.  And the boys were so mad that they played harder than I’d ever seen them play.  And they lost because of a strange “problem” with the clock that nullified a final basket. 

We did some serious discussions and essays about how males “of color” were treated in neighborhoods like that.  They had some incredible stories to tell.   And were relieved to be able to tell them to someone who wouldn’t tsk and tell them they were “too sensitive” or too quick to play the “race card.”

So….let me get to the point, finally.  I told you this would be ugly.

One morning around 6 a.m., I headed out, as usual, to walk our beloved Pomeranian, now much missed and lovingly remembered,  so that I could get back and get my baby up and ready for school and myself ready for work on time.

Because it was still dark at that time of year, I was wearing a t-shirt, baggy pajama bottoms, curlers and some sort of jacket—I don’t remember what kind.  And fuzzy slippers, too.   Real “sharp outfit,” right?

And about mid-block I was suddenly blinded by a very bright light.

I shielded my eyes and then could make out, in the street just ahead of me, a squad car that had stopped.  The cop had turned that big light they have up by the rear view mirror on the driver’s side.

I didn’t stop.  I was in no mood to deal with this nonsense at 6 a.m. a few feet from my house.

 I let Bijou do her business, turned, and walked back to the house with the light and the car still following me.  And then I went into my house and peeked through the blinds.  He was still sitting there.

I guess some black woman with curlers, baggy jammies and a toy Pom on a leash had robbed a house recently—who knows?

But by the time I went out to the bus stop with my baby girl and all her pals, and Bijou, too…he was gone.

The Emmett Till connection

So, again, it was no surprise when I heard that a 17-year-old Black kid with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea was shot by a neighborhood vigilante who followed him around the gated community because he looked “suspicious.”

 Or that the murderer hadn’t been arrested, despite his history of overstepping his appointed duties—he’d made dozens of similar 911 calls before deciding, this once, not to heed the dispatcher’s warning to stop following the “suspect” and leave it to the police.

His mother has asked the media to stop playing that the 911 call with Trayvon’s terrified cries in the background.  But  I believe she should follow the lead of my my 5th grade teacher, Mamie Till-Mobley,  who made an extraordinary and painful decision when she brought the battered, water-bloated body of her teenage son, Emmett Till, home to rest at last.

She kept the casket open.   She wanted the world to see what had been done to her baby boy.  Because she knew that one look at that ravaged, misshapen “thing” in the casket would say more about the world in which such things could happen to a teenage boy than any sermon or speech.

We need to hear those bone chilling screams and the shot that killed Trayvon seconds later.

Yes, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare come true.

But it might finally wake the whole world.

rated and recommending for EP & COVER.
Once again I am right there with you. I am so terrified, so angry, so ashamed, so tired I don't even know what to say anymore. This feels so much like my "excuse me for living" story that I wrote just a few weeks ago. The fact that we are even talking about "WHETHER" the psychopath should be arrested or not makes me want to explode! I am not proud to be an American! I'm sorry but I have to spell the word out! This is so FUCKING unfair! I look at the photos of this innocent young man and my heart breaks. How could anyone be so evil as to take his life away from him?
Hey, GOT your wish--the EP anyway! I've never seen it happen so soon, either--THANK you! And know that you and I are always "in sync." What amazes me is that it took me a while to even write about it, because it was just...something I was used to. How DANGEROUS is that? I'm so ashamed of myself...
Christ, the more I'm reading, the more sick I'm getting. I don't want to listen to the tape, but I will do it.

I hope this gets thousands and thousands of views.
ashamed of yourself? STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.
It is shameful that ANYBODY is FORCED to write about this. How I WISH you got an EP for writing about some WONDERFUL DREAM but as you say "the whole world" needs to wake up from these nightmares now. May Trayvon's screams be THE screams that are heard around the world. How's that for a wish?
I have to come back and say more, because there's something that's eating away at me about this one! We are so, so sick as a society. There is this attitude that comes through in the way this is being debated in some circles, that absolutely terrifies me. It's as if it's OK to kill a young boy simply because his presence makes some people nervous. The racism that keeps raising its ugly head, seems to me, even more insidious than in my childhood. I keep going back to that night when I learned that Obama had won. That feeling of pride and resolution has been replaced with a sober understanding that too many of those who never evolved since the civil rights movement, are now scared shitless. They have no shame! That peaceful part of my spiritual nature that I have spent so much time nurturing over many years is in deep struggle with a side of me that wants to beat the bigot senseless. I have no doubt by higher side will win. But I think it's importnat to say where I'm at!
I must admit-
I just recommended "for review."
I lost a bit of boldness in translation.
thank-you. powerfully written. The tension in the dialogue you write is excruciating.
also thinking...maybe some of the myth of the civil rights era was that once won...the gains made couldn't be lost...

now it seems like every generation needs to be taught how to pick up the struggle for equality and justice just where the previous generation left off...
Keka, my Chicago sister, it is a wonder any of us with brown pigmentation ever made it to old age. Your stories are horrid. And they are ubiquitous. I was pulled over by awhite police officer in a western Chicago suburb and told I was "too pretty" to be driving around by myself. I was 20 years old, it was broad daylight and my home was two blocks away. I have never trusted a police officer since. I don't know what exactly he had in mind, but I was able to talk my way out of it.

This Trayvon Martin case is pivotal. There is no way they are going to get away with this miscarriage of justice because there have been too many of us who barely escaped the same fate. And I agree with you. While I can understand his mother not wanting to hear her baby's terrified screams for help before that gut-wrenching gunshot went off, it needs to be played over and over and over until all the so-called apologists for Zimmerman's behavior and for the unconscionable lack of action on the part of the police department can get it through their thick heads that this was a cold-blooded murder.

Rated, read in its entirety, word for word, and envisioned, imagined, and believed every, single emotion you must have been feeling, and every thought that must have been running through your head. Here in Denver, Latinos and Latinas get pulled over for "driving while Latino." I got pulled over while rushing to work one day (I wasn't speeding), but a cop swooped down on me so fast that I knew he was checking to see if I was in the country illegally. As soon as he heard my perfect, professional English, he started stuttering, and then came up with some lame-ass excuse about me "cutting off the other driver too closely when you passed." WTF? Oh, and here's the kicker, I have "Pioneer" license plates on my care, proving that my family has been in Colorado since before statehood.
Going to recommend to all the people I know who don't believe that 'white privilege' exists. Shame.
Keka, I thought of poet Muriel Rukeyser words when I read this ...
"What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open."

Stories like yours help us see the truths. Mamie Till-Mobley's brutal truth reveals a world split open. You make a powerful Emmett Till/Trayvon Martin connection.
I would love to see the entire front page of OS dedicated to this subject, along with an open call for everyone to tell their stories.
When a Trayvon dies I end up with too many thoughts in my head to find adequate expression for :(. But I'm going to try. Again.

Rated for creeping hopelessness.
Since not even one of the misguided or worse Right Wing Cowards of OS has showed up to spew hate on this or any other of these posts dealing with truth and fact, not privilege and fantasy, let me just say that I've been beaten by cops all over the South at various times in my 6 decades, surfers being criminals and drug dealers by default, and brown surfers for sure even worse ... been in a few jail cells down in cracker land too, and, get this, all but once I never said a word other than, "Can I help you officer?"

These stories may turn a white privileged or simply naive or ignorant or actually credulous reader into thinking how bad it was- well, I'm glad you were OK, but you were a credentialed reporter: the rape and forced oral sex that cops, particularly in the south, but also the white cracker cops of old Harlem and Oakland, well, those are stories so numerous as to actually be qualified for statistical analysis.

A very striking and highly instructive example was the Southern White Klan Haters response to, of all company's, Fox's (yes, they used to be socially conscious, if you can believe it :( classic film about Southern cracker haters, the highly regarded, "Pinky"- not actually incredibly, once you realize denial is a way of life for hating racist cracker KKK Tory Cavalier scumbag rape artists and murderous lynchers, they howled like crazed hyenas at the release of the movie as one scene had two cracker (yes, I use the word and won't stop- f'ing crackers!) cops about to rape Pinky, and slapping around another black woman (art imitates life) as the star of the film she was saved by the sudden appearance of a witness- well, this is the true story of hater cops and women of color, rape or forced oral sex in exchange for going on your way home.

Anyone with a problem with this needs either immediate truthful education or extensive psychological counseling to deal with their sheeple brainwashing.

I personally love lunching at the Polo Lounge, but, I always valet and then drive the hell out of there, not make the mistake of actually walking or even touring the "hood" by car.

Where are you OS right wing haters, how come you are suddenly the most silent cowards on the planet? Oh yeah, because here you'll get blowback for your hate and misogyny, while you can spew your cancer on Yahoo comments (read some, horrible cracker hate everywhere) or just go to red state dot com or, worse, some militia site, and listen to the goons say what a good job Zimmerman the coward hater did ... that is why we spell AmeriKKKa ... speak up haters!!! We want to see the real you.
on a positive note K- damn you were fine with your natural!
Bravo! Well done. Indeed, well done.

(I'm 70. I remember Emmet.)

I have only one thought "OMG!" It was a rising mantra as I read through your post. If any man pulled up to me on the street and basically asked "How much?" I would tell him, "Probably two years for soliciting."

But since I'm white, I could get away with that. I can't imagine the horror of keeping that bottled up, or worse, having to make a run for it.
So lucky you had that press pass. I agree that this should be an open call, where everyone shares their stories with police or abuse of power. I'm white, but I came upon incredible corruption, when a rich and well connected maniac decided to target me, and got a Hollywood law firm who owns certain LAPD detectives to make my life a living hell. This kind of police brutality and corruption affects those that they see as powerless, whatever the color.
I then understood the horror and pain African Americans must feel all the time. Most whites simply don't ever find out, and so not enough Americans will stand up. I too hope this story does not go away and I think your post helps.
So excellently written. *big sigh*
Eye opening to a lot of us, I suspect. Thank you for writing it.
How can we have a black president yet still haven't gotten past Emmett Till? "A change is gonna come." When?
My education on being/understanding, how it is to be black began in the winter of 2007; I was training to mentor financially challenged families, some of whom were black. We would be instructed by a very professional black women, who would relate something of how it is to live as a black person in the white world. I had not an easy, sheltered life by any means. My eyes opened wide to the extreme barrage of what Karen would relate to us: she was profiled constantly -- her professional dress and attitude would tell most that she was not in any way connected to crime, drugs or for any reason, suspicious. We would hear of even for someone who had 'made it' , bootstrapped it, that she would be stopped by cops in her neighborhood, which was upper middle class; routinely, she'd be profiled by cops. Neighbors asking her if she was working in the area as a maid; she would tell one witless lady, "No, I don't come out here .... I live here."
The enemy here is the mountain of ignorance that we have inherited from tired, useless politicians, people with something to sell -- protect us. Well people, they did a real good job, the insurance that we bought here is costing us, now, that the flood of violence is rising ... The new leaders have no answer, other than to pass 'Stand Your Ground' laws, which protect no one, other than some politicians' chances for re-election. Imaginary self-defense is still braking the law. This fatuous creep that was Barney Fife with slower wit and a Glock, is being protected by bad people elected and bad law, all in the name of protection!
Who will protect us from such people?
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like.
When I listen to Sam Cooke sing, "A Change is Gonna Come," I wonder if it will be in my lifetime, or maybe my daughter's lifetime.
When my husband got stopped for "suspicion of shoplifting" a couple of weeks ago, he assured me "nothing has changed." I argued that things HAVE changed. "We have a Black president, for Christ's sake," I insisted.
I want to believe things have changed.
I know he is right. And it makes me cry.
The end of this boy's life makes me cry the hardest. ~r
I'm not shocked either. Even within our boring Southern municipality, racism is alive and well. It's just a wee bit more subtle, couched in terms of "class."
Thank you all for saying the things that must be said, and that I tried to say, a little later than I should've.

A change MUST come. And that young boy with the big doe eyes may be the sacrificial lamb who forces the whole world to finally "see" what so many young black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American and other children of color and of both sexes already have. I must add the LGBT kids who are preyed upon similarly, and perhaps even more vehemently in certain communities.

Trayvon is a symbol of all of the injustice suffered daily by millions. And I say, again, that perhaps his death be that "wake up call" we so desperately need.
Speechless. Bowled me over. This travesty will wake up an important part of the world. And your powerful piece could do the waking if it were to run on Knight-Ridder and hit the Sunday papers all the hell over the country. I knew when I saw the mugshots yesterday of the two - Trayvon and (to hell with the a$$hole's name) - that this would blow up. That the local cops didn't arrest the a$$hole immediately was as stupid as pouring a keg of gunpowder on a bonfire. The FBI's in it now and some federal prosecutor's already salivating and forming a campaign staff for a mayoral or gubernatorial run launched by his eating the local cops for breakfast and feeding the a$$hole to his dogs.
My apologies for the extended italics, Keka. You got me so worked up I mistyped the closing code after will
And Oahu...I look at that 'fro and that insouciant gaze and I laugh and say the same thing those black men used to say after they beeped at me:

"Go 'head, Shorty!"

I was never just a pretty face. But experience has given me a deep wisdom that shines soooo much brighter now.'s a kick to look upon the younger me, and congratulate her for showing such poise under pressure...
Why is this still happening? Here in Nola a policeman just shot an unarmed kid during a search of a house for pot. He was just a kid. And no one but the mother seems to care. In fact, I have read nothing more about it.
Barbara...I wish there were an answer that made sense. The fact that you ask is more evidence that somehow these things have become so commonplace for some that we hear...and shrug...

I haven't heard anything about the case you've revealed to us. But...I wish I could say I was surprised. I just can't.
Vivid and harrowing. Thank you, Keka.
Everything I could say, you already know. I was so young and green when I worked for Jesse Jackson on Operation Push and other initiatives. What an education. I heard so many painful stories, but it was the "cross the street" and the "suspicious behavior by reason of skin color" that I found most disturbing. Such casual, everyday, acceptable dehumanizing behavior.

Now that I'm older and wiser, your horrific recountings affected me even more powerfully. I am flooded with anger and frustration that no matter what we did, what we do, it's never enough! Ignorance and blind fear and hatred stay too strong, just out of reach. At least we can all benefit from your courage and wisdom. It gives me hope.
I know those of us born white won't ever truly get it, but thank you for sharing your stories. (BTW I remember that house in BH - it was crazy!)
I was walking one night with a black friend in Louisiana near a small town when we were stopped by police. The white cop asked me what I thought I was doing, and I told him that I was walking back to my friend's place. He shook his head and leaned in and said, "You can't have a friend like that around here." He held me while my friend walked, very quickly no doubt, the rest of the way back to his place. Then the officer gave me a stern look and let me go. Just the sight of a white man and a black man strolling along together was what set him off. I remember the cop smelled like stale milk. This was a little more than twenty years ago...

BOKO, that happened to me out here in AZ just after we first moved from Chicago. My big, Aryan wet dream of a boyfriend was an engineer for one of the power companies out this way, and he worked with an African man named Vukile, who told us he had amassed over 100 traffic citations in a year, because he drove a beautiful Camaro to and from work everyday, and around the small town where we all lived.

My beau decided to see what would happen if he drove the car one morning. And almost immediately after getting on the highway, he was stopped. But when he got out of the car, the cop startled and then grinned.

"I knew this wasn't that boy's car," he said.

And my beau said, "What boy?"

"That boy from overseas somewhere. With the accent. Black boy."

And my beau said, "Ah, Vukile! This is his car. I'm just borrowing it for the day."

And the cop apparently gave him a blood curdling stare and said, "Boy, you got the wrong kinda friends..."

From then on he was very, very watchful whenever we went out in that area--very protective of me, most of all. We both had learned a valuable lesson about our new home state from that.
Well done for a well deserved EP.
As a blond white male it's salutary to hear how life is lived from someone whose experiences are so different than my own. I remember first being struck by a small and partly amusing incident. A black male/white female couple had recently moved into one those almost all white upscale DC suburbs. This was the mid 70s. The guy was doing some gardening and a car pulls up. The woman in the car asks "How much do they pay you?" The guy replies "Nothing! But the lady of the house lets me sleep with her". It's a trivial case but for some reason it made me think of the myriad ways in which my skin color sheltered me from being singled out.
Your post is heartbreaking and eye opening. I forced myself to listen to Trayvon's voice calling for help when news programs aired the 911 calls. As an educator I have had more vicarious experience with racism through my students' lives, than personal experience. I have had some encounters with racism as an Ojibway woman, but what you describe is the debilitating experience of living with the constant need to be hyperconscious of your surroundings and other people. Only those who are forced to live under those conditions can possibly relate. Hopefully the public demonstrations surrounding this latest debacle will create a critical mass of outrage and indignation and force our nation to learn and change.
Totally harrowing and hideous. Thanks Keka for braving this unbelievable-- & too believable tale, rated with Love !
Anger is not the word. You have class, patience, and act with mindfulness. As a human being, it is embarrassing to be a part of these behaviors. So many stories and so many fruits of the poisonous tree. I am so very sorry that this happened to you so many times.

Each time, it took a part of humanity away from this world.

Again, sorry this happened to you!
Real writer meets reality. This is outstanding.
it would be good if something did change.
Thanks for testifyin'.

One minor correction: it was not an LAPD cop. It was Beverly Hills PD, because both that house (oh, boy, did it twist the locals' knickers in a bunch! Here's a link to a representative story on it) and the "Hotel California" are in BH. The fact that he was alone is proof that someone called it in thinking you were looking for "business." (LAPD squad cars always carry two. Unless it's a sergeant out for a spin.)
So messed up. I'm just terrified for my black nieces.
Well deserved EP, so sad that this still happens. I guess it is possible that some people just do not evolve. It makes my head hurt and my heart break to see this happening and to read what has happened to you.
rated with love
Read and appreciated.
Only time will change this sick society. In a few decades whites will be the minority. Until then, the racism will continue as it has for centuries. How you have been treated by law enforcement in particular is wicked and terrifying. I have watched and listened closely how President Obama has been treated which has been very similar to how Jackie Robinson was abused in his first years in MLB. Pretend Leftists-the firebaggers- have been the very worst and surprising offenders- criticizing his every move and never giving him any credit for his massive accomplishments. His election has unleashed covered-over racism in all parts of this society. The sadness I feel after reading your elegant piece is deep. It doesn't have to be this way but our society's mental illness is profound and way more prevalent than most will admit.
Cerro Verde, you rock! Thanks for clarifying and verifying. I took a look at that article and it gave me the giggles. It's nice to laugh a little, after dealing with such a weighty subject.

To the rest of you...I'm grateful and humbled by your comments and the experiences many of you relate are just more evidence that something is very, very wrong in this country, still, when we have to endure such injustice every day of our lives.

I really do believe that child's death is making a difference. I just wonder how long we'll continue to care. He's the "cause celebre" right now, but that may change as soon as a new outrage takes over the front page.
Keka, thank you. Several years ago when Timothy Thomas was killed by Cincinnati cops and rioting erupted, I attended night law school in NKY with a young man from DC. Family man, married with small children, an engineering degree from Howard. Worked for Procter and Gamble. I emailed him to see how he was doing after curfew imposed on the city. He said that for the first time he was afraid of the Cincy cops. I told him I had been afraid for him all along. I do not know if he and his family still live there. He did graduate with his class and may be working as a patent lawyer for Procter and God (as they are known locally). May of 2001 was his graduation date. He questioned whether he should be doing something more. My best advice was that he was doing the best thing he could by living his life well.

In those days the national headquarters of the Aryan nation was located in Ohio a little north of Cincinnati area. Pre 9/11 we had metal detectors set up and special security when Morris Dees spoke on campus, brought by NKU groups including Chase College of Law. There had been death threats.

It really is not an accident that the Underground Railroad Freedom Center is located on the river in Cincinnati. So much learning to do.

Too many children are buried in this country. All of our souls know it.
Angering that this occurs, thanks for the courage to write it about it, and so well Keka.
PS you are beautiful~
There are no words....I cry for Trayvon's family and the fact they now have to live without him forever. Zimmerman must be brought to justice and have horrible consequences for his action. Just caz he is a wanna-be cop, a kid had to pay with his life? I am ashamed and so sorry. I can't believe the incidences you have suffered as a beautiful black woman. How dare people speak to you in that manner, how dare they not see value, until they see your credentials, how dare they assume?!! You don't appear to be bitter, you know your worth and value, and I love how your confidence showed through to idiots who tried to pass judgement on you.This post is sad.

The eight-grade math of massively frisking New York City's minorities: After -- crime was reduced by 4X, stop-and-frisk went up by 6X = 24X as many frisks per reported crime.

This means -- either -- that those police officers and administrators responsible for reducing crime to 25% of what it was were totally remiss and neglectful in their patrol duties (wouldn't that be a contradiction in terms?) -- or -- that the Fourth Amendment has been totally suspended for New York City minorities (the mayor's intended victims?).

Could 24X increase in frisking be a move by Mad King Bloomberg* to reduce the numbers of the less affluent and minorities -- to make room for more of their opposite numbers? ???
Thank you and I wish these things had never happened to you.
I am so sad about the way you have been treated and the murder of Trayvon and Emmett and all the victims of the short-eyed white man.
Rated rated rated, been there and done that. From the cops showing up at my dad's house because the neighbors complained we were driving too slow up the steeeeeep hill to his home. The full beer bottle thrown at me on Hempstead Turnpike outside Belmont Park waiting for a city bus. The cops who pulled their guns on me for trying to fish my keys out of my own car. The cops who asked my son why he was in our neighborhood on our street. The cops who refused to arrest the Canadian girls who vandalized my car because I didn't actually see them do it, I only saw them run from the scene right after I heard the pop of my gas tank door they pryed open. When does it end?
When I was in high school and lived in a neighborhood that had a private patrol (I mean a doofus in a golf cart) there was a neighborhood newsletter that had a crime report section. There was a list of reported incidents. I was reading it once at breakfast and came across -
3 reports of walking Blacks.
I KID YOU NOT! My father and I were appalled. My dad, who was a lawyer went to the association and threatened them with a lawsuit. His main argument was "should they crawl? and that would be ok?" Needless to say it didn't make him many friends but within a few years the neighborhood slowly became diverse so that by the time my kids were around it is now a completely diverse area. This was the early 70's but it still makes me cringe. When my daughter was in a different state because of Katrina she made me drive 400 miles to get her because the school she was in did not celebrate MLK Day because as was explained to her "do you see any blacks here?" I didn't want to drive 8 hours but I did and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.
It read like a scab being removed from a wound, never healed. My heart was broken by Trayvon's stupid, senseless murder. I'm ashamed to be a white American. Thank you for writing this Keka.
I have my own series of tales: driving with long hair, driving an junker in the wrong neighborhood, smoking in a parked car, walking while white, walking while old and other strange insanities... sometimes it's so stupid it's funny but more often than not it's just stupid and if you let it get to you it pisses you off.
As said elsewhere here, thanks for sharing, although writing "thanks" here seems fundamentally wrong, given how f'ed up this all is. As I've often moved in and around the non-mainstream in a variety of ways, I've heard and seen too much comparable crap. If only all people could get a brain and grow up.
Found you via Roger Ebert's Facebook post, and I am thrilled to discover another excellent voice to add to my regular blog reading. This is beautiful writing about so much ugliness. I am horrified and saddened.

I teach English at a large commuter university in the south, and I frequently assign Brent Staples' "Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space" in my freshman comp courses. This entry will (sadly) make an excellent companion piece. Thank you for teaching me something new (to me) today.
Way back in 1951, (white) science fiction writer Ray Bradbury wrote a story called The Pedestrian -- -- based on a true incident in his life.

And if your name is George Zimmerman, what are you going to do if I decide you scare me (I'm an old man, and sick) and shoot you? Could happen if you come to my part of Florida...
Oh what a world! So unfair, so unbelievably unfair. Thank you for sharing all this and writing so well about it all. This was a well deserved EP. Proud to know you.
Thanks for your voice--Trayvon will NOT die in vain!
Oh, snap! Great post...puts the wonder back into our hearts. Well done: a very calm and intelligent perspective.
In my local newspaper there is a discussion going on in the comments on a blog about a Solidarity March which will happen on Sunday. It is heartening to see whites confronting each other on this. I haven't seen this kind of passion since the Civil Rights movement. Thank you for sharing your stories. People who want to believe this isn't racism need to hear these stories and understand nearly every black person living in America has them. I say "nearly" because maybe somewhere there is someone who hasn't. I'd like to meet that person.
Boy your ideas here are just so good and well grounded. you look like a million dollars to back then. Thanks for sharing the finer details about this here.
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All these stories are exhausting me - and I'm only reading and hearing them. I can't even imagine how you live through them, live with them and I'm sorry you have to. Not just sorry. Angry.
Keka, whenever I read your words, I feel that you have shed light on whatever you are talking about. Thank you for the illumination.

Sadly, I am surprised by none of this. Where I live as a white man, I hear prejudice regularly, and it is assumed that I agree, which of course, I don't. One of the those who responded here made reference to our country's mental illness, which I find sadly true.

Why do people celebrate hatred, when they could be celebrating life.?That is a question we must all answer. Critical thinking, and compassion seem to be unappreciated by far too many in this world.
Personally, I believe in modeling, and being the best me, I can be.

Let us love one another.
Rated for reality sucks.
As usual your writing kept me on the edge of my seat. Thanks for ssharing our reality and making others feel how we feel when we're dehumanized and disrespected.
Thanks for sharing -- we need to get more of these stories out there in plain view.

As a straight white male, I understand how others who look like me fail to see the racism still rampant in our country and the fact that we (I) benefit from white privilege.

But what I find interesting/disturbing is that whenever I bring up the fact that we benefit tremendously from white privilege (on comment boards or in person), I'm usually confronted with plenty of angry and defensive push-back.

I think a lot of white folks hear that and think I'm saying that all white people are racist and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. That's not it, of course, and I'm really proud of my background and who I am. Understanding white privilege doesn't mean wallowing in white guilt.

But anyway, thanks for giving me more stories to use as examples of white privilege.
Thanks, Keka.
Sorry business.
Keka, I just re-read this and it's just perfect. Perfectly horrible, of course but perfectly written. Somehow my association was to living in Jamaica WI for 5 years, the only white woman in the bush. The only white woman in Sav La Mar or elsewhere. And how all you describe which I can see and feel viscerally, were the opposite of how I was treated in crowded all black situations. Everyone would respond to a smile and smile back. And when we, my husband was Jamaican but from NY, and so white, were held up countless times, because the crackheads that made JA the murder capital (still is I believe) because being white, it was assumed we had money even as we lived without electricity in a slum, how everyone rallied around us, to make sure we didn't feel it as racist. I was so lucky to live in a place that cured me of any latent racism, not that I ever had any. My dad in the 50's took into our home a black man and he was part of the family, this in a really bad time. So, it's awful and there is hope, i hope there is hope. And you, such a beauty in and out, suffered these absurd but o so real indigities. Love you, WO

PS as a kid and into my 20's I had a recurring dream. I would be in a plane crash, it was always Chicago, and after death, I was this cute little black girl dancing along some train tracks. Maybe that is the real essence of why i've always been color blind.
"And every black woman I know has at least one or two just like them. The sole difference between Trayvon’s story and ours is that we usually live to tell ours."

By the time I reached the end, I could barely see straight. Gotta get my coffee to try to calm down and some band-aids to cover my scars.
Thank you for your very well-written and honest essay on this subject.

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