Living While Black: Skip Gates Is Just The Latest Victim

What Women Really Think
July 23 2009 10:12 AM

Living While Black: Skip Gates Is Just The Latest Victim


Thanks, Samantha, for pointing out a tendency by some white people to show, as you say, a "reflexive defense mechanism" whenever another white person, usually one in a position of power, is accused of showing racism. Coming from me, a black person, similiar sentiments are often dismissed as biased. But aren't the white people defending Officer Crowley and criticizing Skip Gates also showing bias?


The difference in perception is predicated on a simple fact: Most white people have never experienced, and could never imagine, such a thing happening to them or their loved ones. But if you’re black, you’ve probably experienced an unpleasant, potentially dangerous, encounter with white police, or know some other black person who has. In my case there have been several such encounters.

I was once stopped on a Brooklyn street by two white officers while I was on my way to catch a train to my college campus on Long Island. They accused me of having robbed a clothing store owner. Even after they snatched my duffle bag from my shoulder and emptied its contents on the sidewalk-a pair of jeans and some other clothing, two textbooks, and my college ID-they forced me into the cruiser and took me to the store in question to ask the owner if I was the stick-up kid who’d robbed him. My brother was once severely beaten by white police officers in upstate New York who mistook him for bank robber. Never mind that he was withdrawing money from his own bank account at the time. My sister’s former stepson was accosted by several police officers after inquiring about CD rates at several South Florida banks. They mistook him for a potential bank robber. I could go on, but you get my drift. (And don’t get me started on the number of times I’ve been pulled over for Driving While Black.)

I was a girl when my brother was beaten and unable to do anything about it. But when the stepson was racially profiled, I was a reporter, and I certainly fought back. His story ran in the Miami Herald , where I worked at the time, and later on the front page of the New York Times . He went to court and sued the cops, and he won. It was sweet revenge. I can’t wait to see how Skip Gates gets his with Cambridge’s finest.

Photograph of police near a memorial for a black New York teen who was shot and killed by police by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

U.S. Begins Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059


Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How in the World Did Turkey Just Get 46 Hostages Back From ISIS?

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.