Do You Feel Unsafe Around White People?

arrives at the 12th Annual ADCOLOR Conference And Awards at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on September 23, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

Do You Feel Unsafe Around White People?

"A number of white folks feel comfortable policing us themselves."

Published 5 days ago

Written by Soraya Joseph

On Wednesday (July 10), columnist and writer Jamilah Lemieux, along with activist and civil rights leader Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, were the latest guests to stop by BET's Black Coffee.

Lemieux and Robinson joined hosts Marc Lamont Hill and Gia Peppers to discuss a number of culturally-impactful social issues, including the racially-motivated killing of 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin, and the four year anniversary of the late Sandra Bland's controversial arrest and subsequent death.

While on the topic of discrimination, host Hill proposed the question of the day: "Do you feel unsafe around White people?" This lead to a discussion on the recent recordings of White people taking it upon themselves to harass and police Black people, including the likes of "Pool Patrol Paula," and BBQ Becky.

"Pool, park Pamela, or whatever cute name people want to give her, that stuff has been going on since day one. Since there have been police to call on Black people, Black people have had the police called on them," Lemieux stated.

The author and cultural critic then added, "So, we've never been safe in the presence of White people. There is an increased likelihood of police interaction, because of the idea that we're unsafe, and they have to be protected from us.

There is the idea that somebody can challenge your ability to simply exist in this space, or actually do you harm, physically. There's so many of them. I hate to say, 'White people, they're just so bad...' No, it's not that, but the number of White folks that feel comfortable policing us themselves [is high]. It's not just about calling law enforcement. It's someone saying, "What are you doing here?" [or] "Your music is too loud.

"I think about the times White women and men will get in my physical space as if I'm invisible, almost like they're trying to walk through me. And I just think to myself if a Black man, or even me - a tall, Black woman - got that close to you, you'd be so uncomfortable. You'd be so afraid." 

When the story of the late Elijah Al-Amin came up, the 17-year-old who was recently stabbed to death by a White man who felt "threatened" by the teen's rap music, Lemieux gave an example of how policing at the hands of white people can prove to be fatal, and how she would've reacted differently.

"If I see a 17 year old at a vending machine, my first thought is, 'I hope he has enough money for his snacks,' if he doesn't, maybe I need to reach into my purse, and pull out some money. I go into cool, big sister mode.'”

Robinson spoke about ways to combat traditional methods used to dismiss Black pain. “Strategically, we have to up our game about who we hold accountable, what enablers are sort of occupy comfortable space when these things happen, whose comfort is upended until justice is served,” he said.

Watch the full episode here, to see Robinson and Lemieux go into detail about race matters, what has transpired since Sandra Bland's untimely death and how we can do our part to try and make the community better.

Be sure to tune in for new episodes of Black Coffee, live every weekday, 10am EST, only on BET's official Twitter & Facebook!

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images

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