By Danielle C. Belton
When I was 21, a police officer at the scene of a fire cursed me out.
It didn’t matter that I was there with a camera crew and working for a TV station in St. Louis. It didn’t matter that I was absolutely nowhere near the fire (I was standing across the street). He thought I, wearing a suit and carrying a reporter’s notepad, badge and pen, was some punk, teenage lookie loo.
The cameraman spoke up for me, explaining that I had a right to be there. The officer just yelled more and became belligerent. Realizing that I had no interest in being arrested, I agreed to go back to the news van. The cameraman, who went on to film the fire, said to me, quite succinctly, “What an a–hole.” But I knew the real crime.
I was “existing while black”!
Existing while black shouldn’t be a crime, but it sort of is. The bust-up over a black teenage girl in a bikini being thrown to the ground by a police officer in McKinney, Texas, is reflective of this. The fact that some on social media pointed out that “at least” the “police didn’t shoot anyone” as a result of the police-officer-pulls-gun-on-kids-at-pool mishap is a testament to the sad state of “existing while black.”
Below are nine things black people can’t do if they run into the wrong police officer, busybody stranger or racist sociopath on any given day.
1. Be Loud
Some people are loud. Some of those loud people are black people. But while loud people, in general, are typically seen as just mild annoyances, loud black people are routinely seen as threatening or sinister. This can be confusing for the black people being targeted for being loud because if they, or you, are anything like me and have a voice that carries, you don’t even know that you’re being loud until someone tells you. If you’re lucky, they’ll tap you on the shoulder. If you’re unlucky, they will call the cops on you for praying too loudly or issue warrants for your arrest for cheering at a high school graduation. But, hey, maybe they’ll find a middle ground and just post a rude note in your apartment building. The worst thing that can happen, of course, is that you will get killed for it. Which is what tragically happened to Florida teen Jordan Davis, murdered by Michael Dunn over loud music.