I was recently on the phone catching up with a relative of mine when the conversation took an abrupt turn. “Uh oh,” she said. I asked her what was wrong. “These young boys with their pants hanging down are walking past my car,” she said. “I need to get my gun.”

She went on to explain her concern that as the summertime approached and school ended, young black boys like the ones who had walked past her car—although she had not specifically identified them as black when she first expressed alarm—would be roaming the streets looking for trouble.

I was so taken aback by her reaction that I did not respond, but in light of the ongoing Trayvon Martin case, her response made me think about the many ways in which people of color negatively profile the members of our own communities.

Yes, many parents and politicians alike acknowledge the need for youth, especially youth of color and those in more underserved communities, to have constructive and affordable summer opportunities to keep them safe and occupied, but since when does having a group of young black boys walk past your car merit needing to reach for a weapon? Granted, this relative and I do not live in the same region of the country, so I cannot comment on the specific issues and circumstances of where she lives, but even so, I could not help but notice the Zimmerman-esque nature of her response.

Apparently, a group of young black boys who walk by wearing sagging pants are equally as “suspicious” as a black teenage boy wearing a hoodie–and not just to an overzealous neighborhood watchman, but to a black woman, and a mother to a son, someone who has expressed outrage about the circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin case and the plight of young black men. Ironically, she didn’t even seem to grasp the problem with her own behavior.

This observation is not to say that the actions of Zimmerman or anyone else who engages in racial profiling are somehow merited or justifiable. In fact, it basically demonstrates that people of color can indeed harbor prejudice and engage in racial and other sorts of profiling, even against one another. It also forced me to think about the ways in which many people of color aid in the process of stereotyping and criminalizing our own–especially our men–even as we shake our heads and fists at society for doing so.

  • TyneandWear


    Yes, but in the area where I live we would use the term “radgee” (pronounced rah-jee). Chavs arent so bad but radgees in the North East make American “white trash” look like the Windsor family.

  • TyneandWear


    Define shady? For many people a certain skin color is shady.

  • LemonNLime

    IMO the instances between Zimmerman and your relative are very different. Your relative reached for a gun for protection, she didn’t chase down a kid and shoot him after being told to stay away by authorities on the phone.

    Like it or not, I don’t like political correctness dictate how I protect myself. Because I am a single woman who 95% of the time is traveling by myself, I do profile for the sake of my own protection. Regardless of race, if you are a man dressed like a thug or any other shady fashion you best believe I am profiling you and extremely aware of your proximity to me. I always avoid walking near groups of two or men if it can be avoided and much like your relative, if I am walking around at night I have my pocket knife and mace in hand ready to go.

    Lastly, I was taught by my parents and granparents that those who have pride in themselves carry themselves in that manner. Nothing about the way I carry myself indicates low class (not socioeconomic but mentality-wise), street, etc. so I don’t associate with those that exhibit that behavior. What woman in her right mind would choose the guy dressed as a thug versus the guy in a the suit? NO, it isn’t about $$$ but much more than that. Even if it was so what? If you choose to dress that way, fine it is your choice, but realize that is the first impression that you present to the outside world and, pardon your delicate sensibilities, but ALL humans profile consciously and unconsciously. Those that say they don’t are LYING, because all animal profile, if they didn’t you have a ton of dead animals everywhere. So if you want to talk to decent women, the way I see it, you have two choices: 1. Carry around a sandwich board the lists all your outstanding qualities whilst you wear your tacky street clothes with your pants sagging OR 2. Get your act together and dress like you have some sense

  • Yb

    “For many people a certain skin color is shady.”

    You are right. Many people associate negative behavior or scarey appearances to race. The best way I can describe shady to you is by pointing out someone I see on the street. I should said men that intimidate me, and make me feel uncomfortable instead.

  • Toppin

    Amen. I racial profile and I don’t make any apologies about it. A Black man is more likely to rob, rape, steal from me than any white man. I see one that looks stereotypical not only am I reaching for my purse but I’m walking in the opposite direction.

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