By Ellen C Warren
I know that there is a lot to take in and digest right now regarding the injustices heaped upon Black people, as well as other people of color. But I invite you to continue learning, even when it gets painful. Some folks don’t have a choice.
On that note, I wish to share with you some of the words of participants in groups facilitated by the Zeidler Group. In our work to foster dialogue we hear a lot of truths about what really happens in our world. Everyone maintains their anonymity, but all you will read came out of the mouths of real people telling their own stories. Consider it a glimpse into the reality of daily life for a Black person.
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I do childcare in my home. The police broke into my house and said they could come in because the door was “open.” It was unlocked. They were looking for someone else who had my son’s name. They terrified the babies.
I live at Keefe and Concordia. The police raided my house. It was a case of mistaken identity. I wasn’t there when they came and I later learned that they didn’t break the doors down because the police dogs didn’t detect anything. Then they came again, to both doors at once, in their SWAT gear and terrified our kids. I felt very violated. The police went through my whole house. I never was given a reason.
I don’t have problems with the police but my children are boys 21,19,17, and 13 yrs. of age. They always get stopped, get messed with because they live in this area. (inner city) They’ve never been to jail. They’re not A students, but they’re good kids. I was told by the police, “two or more is a gang.” What am I supposed to do about that? One time my 17 year old was carrying a book bag. Someone had been robbed and the police grabbed him, threw him against the car, etc. even though the robbery victim was saying “That’s not him!”
(Youth) I was walking with three friends. We had just left my home and a MPD car drove up and started asking me questions. “Where you going?” To play basketball. “Where’s the dope at? Where’s the money?” I don’t have any. I’m not that type of person. The policeman hand-cuffed me. He let me go after a while. My mom filed a police report. The incident upset me for a couple weeks.
I had obscenities yelled at me by a carload of white boys as I waited in line at Fox Bay Theatre.
My son went to school in Shorewood. The PTA didn’t address the needs of African American students. We needed a support group for African-American parents. I was outraged that only 2 out of 8 black kids graduated. There were police in school who dealt with offenses as judicial instead of as social when black kids were involved.
The police are pretty brutal on the south side. I got slammed against cars. I saw and experienced a lot of brutality.
(Youth) I know a seventeen year old who took a knife to school. He was expelled. And after that he never went back to school. He said he was afraid of people on his way to school and forgot to ditch the knife. It’s a waste. It makes me feel bad. It was a no-win situation.
In my early adolescence, I was in trouble a lot. I lived in the 53206 zip code. I ended up being sent to the Vel Phillips Detention Center. Until then I had never had any experience with whites. Once I got there I learned that other people (whites) were more important than me.
My family were among the first African Americans to move to an area in Racine. They didn’t want us there. They didn’t want us anywhere near them. The neighbors tried to make my parents feel they were less than them. I hated the community at first. They called me names. I really wanted to move but my parents said we were staying. That was my first experience of racism as a child.
In 2003 I moved to Menomonee Falls. I was at the grocery store and the lady in front of me wrote a check for $200. It was no biggie. When I wrote a check for $50 I was asked for two forms of I.D.
I was born in Chicago and went to a predominantly black school. Some of my fellow students have been very successful. I was raised/taught to be proud to be a black person. When I was sixteen we moved to Racine. I went to a group meeting there and had to introduce myself. Everyone expected me to be bad because I am black. The teachers were not open minded. In Wisconsin, I found that I was not supposed to be smart or good. I went to college in Whitewater. At my job at a copy shop I was told about a black guy who didn’t pay, as if it had to do with me. In Wisconsin we are not supposed to be successful.
There have been many job interviews where I was ignored. They would call everyone else and not me. I have even been asked how I learned to speak so well. I never gave up.
I had three kids in the Menomonee Falls district. It is very hard to get people to understand how different treatment is for different colors. They don’t get it at all. It’s so hard. Everything moves so slow.
I am a mental health therapist. In meetings, I’m almost always the only person of color. I get interrupted and talked over a lot. It happens all the time. Sometimes I have to ask a white person to repeat my words so I will be heard. We are all educated so please stop running over me.
I went to a non-denominational church. My older sister was on the dance team but I didn’t get to dance. I wanted to hang out with the other kids, the boys, sons of the minister included. They told me ‘No, we don’t hang out with black girls.’ I was shocked and hurt. In my opinion in any walk of life racism will show up.
The performance talked about colorism. That made me think back to my growing up in the South until I was 12. I hated my darker skin because of all the bad comments people made. I thought “my own race hates me”. And my grandma said whites were better than blacks. So I didn’t fit into either (race). I grew up without an identity. I’m in the wrong color skin.
Blacks don’t value selves because we’re taught by society not to.
My two college grad sons are still black. I worry every day. Talk about stress. I got it.
It happens to us all the time. The most recent was when my son and I were driving and got pulled over. They asked me for my I.D. And then they went to the passenger side and asked him for his. I told them he’s only 15, he doesn’t have any. They kept pushing him. I had to prove his age and identity. I carry his birth certificate. I felt really angry. And later I felt terrified for my son’s future.
I’ve been harassed by the police in my neighborhood for doing nothing. They said it doesn’t matter. I was harassed in front of my own house. The officer wouldn’t give me his name and badge number. I heard gunshots and walked outside to look around. As I walked back to my house I was asked by police if I heard anything. I said I heard gunshots. They made me open my shirt and questioned me. They were very rough.
When I think about stereotyping and profiling, I think about how differently I am treated in a working suit and at my home. I live in the neighborhood I grew up in and I have always had a nice car. But anytime I would ride outside of my neighborhood I would get a police escort, although they would never talk to me.
It’s the badge and the gun and I’m like no it’s the guns. I ran because I was scared…
To close this article I would like to share comments made by Black people of different ages in response to the question, “What would you like people to know about you?”
That I’m innocent, honest, lovable, a grandmother, a mother, a child, and a father-figure. And I’ll be a snitch if I have to be.
I’m not just an African American boy, I’m a kind, warm-hearted person who cares and loves others.
I have many talents. I can do anything I put my mind to. I sew, make jewelry, fix lawnmowers.
Give me respect as I give respect to you.
I would like to be respected as a girl. And I like babies. I’d like to work with babies.
I’m worth taking a chance on. I haven’t been given many opportunities. I’m honest and sweet.
I am from a broken home. I lost my mother and my father.
I’m a very hard worker. I talk and think a lot. I’m very creative. I want to be an architect.
I’m loving and smart.
Thank you for reading this. I hope your perspective has been enriched.