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Est. April 5, 2002
September 13, 2018 - Issue 755

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Waiting in the Shade While Black!
By Dr. Arica L. Coleman, PhD

"The team had been waiting for about twenty minutes
when they noticed a police car pull up behind them. A
second police car parked behind the first.
A neighbor had called the cops!"

I have lived with my family in a white suburban ghetto since 1993. I regret that I bought into the moving on up suburbia lifestyle myth. But enough about that.

So last Tuesday afternoon my son’s home care team showed up at our house to pick him up for an afternoon outing. My son Manny is twenty-four years old, deaf/autistic, and has lived with my husband and I ever since we removed him from a group home due to abuse and neglect. That was October 2016.

It is extremely hard to get adult services for the differently abled anywhere in this country but much more difficult in a small state like Delaware. After much advocacy, we had finally successfully wrestled home care services from the state. Two adult male workers, who are also black, were hired to take Manny on outings such as swimming, bowling, Planet Fitness, or just for a casual ride five days a week from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

But there was confusion about the start date. Consequently, when the men showed up last Tuesday to pick up Manny, we were already out. The driver decided to park across the street on the side of a house which is diagonal to ours so that he could be under the tree and out from under the scorching summer sun. He also had a clear view of the house so that he could see when we arrived back home.

The team had been waiting for about twenty minutes when they noticed a police car pull up behind them. A second police car parked behind the first. A neighbor had called the cops!

As an officer approached, the driver rolled down the car window and pleasantly greeted him. The officer’s return greeting was pleasant enough. The officer immediately began to interrogate the driver. “What are you doing in this neighborhood? What business do you have on this corner? Do you have your license, registration and proof of employment?”

The latter request was because the driver identified himself and his colleague as home healthcare contractors.

The two men sat for some moments while the officer returned to his police vehicle to check the car plates and IDs the men had handed over. The younger man in the passenger seat was nervous. He recently passed a criminal background check required for the job, but still. The driver sensed the uneasiness of his colleague and disclosed that he was a certified lawyer but found working with special needs people much more satisfying. “Relax, I know our rights,” he said confidently. After a background check and a few more questions, the officer handed back the men’s IDs, got into his vehicle and drove away with the second police car trailing behind.

The men quickly put the incident behind them. The driver only mentioned it this afternoon in a casual “by the way” when he picked up Manny. Of course, I was livid. Once he drove away with my son, I proceeded to knock on one neighbor’s door after the other. When they answered I asked them if they had witnessed the police incident last week. They had. “Were you the one who called the cops,” I asked directly. They each responded that they had not. But they had a clue who did.

There is a very mean, middle-aged woman who lives at the house where the men had parked on the side street. She is so mean that when my husband and I and a few neighbors helped her ailing parents a few years ago by cleaning up the leaves from their oversized front lawn, rather than thank us, this woman told us each to “Go to Hell!”

The neighbors I spoke with about the police incident stated that she is always calling the cops on someone. I was not aware of that. I went to the woman’s house, but her car was not in the driveway. Though the evidence strongly points to her, I will reserve judgment until I can speak with her and hear her own up to it with my own ears. Needless to say I still gave each neighbor an ear full of a history lesson on American racism and how calling the cops on black people can get us killed.

Ironically, the two men were parked at what one neighbor claims is an active drug corner. “But I never see black people doing this, she stated, “They are always white.” I have never seen this activity myself. Unlike in the hood, suburbia’s drug culture is underground and barely visible, though drugs are everywhere. The neighbor stated that what often happens is that a car and a person on foot appear simultaneously, the person on foot exchanges something with the person in the car, and then like magic, poof, they each disappear.

It happens several times a day,” she continued, “and so fast that if you blink you miss it.” She claimed that she and a few other neighbors have called the police about the drug dealing taking place on that corner but the police always say. “We don’t have time to send someone out there.”

But, Newark’s finest made the time to send two police cars to that corner when one of my neighbors called to report that there were two black men sitting in a car. They were not doing or dealing drugs. They were just parked, sitting, waiting under the safety of a maple tree that shielded them from the high afternoon heat. Selah.

This commentary was originally published by Guest Commentator, Dr. Arica L. Coleman, PhD  is an award winning, nationally recognized American historian whose research focuses on comparative ethnic studies and issues of racial formation and identity. Her additional research interests include indigeneity, immigration/migration, interracial relations, mixed race identity, race and gender intersections, sexuality, the politics of race and science, and popular culture. Contact Dr. Coleman
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