The letter “Racial Profiling on the Westside” about being stopped by a police officer for no apparent reason other than the writer being black reminded me of an encounter I had several years ago that has stuck with me and bothered me ever since.
I was having breakfast and reading the newspaper at McDonalds on Milpas Street, and as I was leaving, a black man, probably in his forties, asked if he could read the sports section, if I were done with it. It was in my truck, but I told him he could have it. He walked toward my truck as I left, but at a long distance behind me, and when I got to my truck, he had stopped quite a ways away. I walked back and gave him the paper.
I later puzzled over this encounter, thinking that had he been a white guy, he would have walked with me to the truck. Then I realized he had kept his distance for his own protection. He was probably concerned that if he came too close, I might become afraid and cause some kind of commotion that would bring in the police.
This really brought home to me how black men must be constantly on guard and fearful of creating any remote appearance of threat. What a terrible indictment of our society. I have felt bad about this ever since, and I am ashamed that our country has not overcome this terrible legacy.