On my way home from choir rehearsal a teen-aged punk waddled up to my car while I was at a red light. This kid had his pants around his knees and his hoodie up over his head- in near 80 degree heat. It was 9:00 p.m. and dark enough for the few street lights around to be on. I was on the phone and did not respond when he walked straight up to the driver’s side and tried to get me to roll my window down. I did no such thing and drove off as soon as the light changed. See, I live in the ghetto. In Detroit I lived in the ghetto up there; I actually lived off of 8 Mile.
There are just some things you don’t do in these kinds of neighborhoods unless you’re goal is crime. Approaching a stranger’s car after dark is one of them. Had I been a man- white, black, Hispanic- or a woman- black or Hispanic- he wouldn’t have approached me. Not in this neighborhood. He saw my face and based on my skin color and unassuming 4-door modest car, he profiled me as “safe” to approach. I only got a glimpse of his face in the street light. His walk, clothes, and boldness told me all I needed to know for the time of day it was. Where I was at under the street lights my face was fully visible and that’s all he had to go on before approaching me. But which of us would be accused of racially profiling and racism? Me.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. The day I moved into my neighborhood in Detroit I took an innocent stroll to get the feel of everything (not wise on my part). As I walked down my street I saw heads poking between curtains, heard doors slam shut, and deadbolts thrown into place. I was the only pale person for several blocks and it seems the neighbors weren’t happy I’d moved in. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being racially profiled. I know for sure I’ll never get used to being accused of racial profiling when .001% of genetic make up is the furthest thing from my mind when sizing a person up.