A young man walks the streets of his neighborhood at night alone. Whether he is afraid or not is unknown. What is known is that at this moment he is unprotected.
As he continues this walk he notices a car following him slowly. Realizing that the vehicle is in fact a police car, he lowers his guard. He is filled with hope at the sight of this new form of protection and thus slows his pace.
Instead of extending an offer of safe passage, the law enforcement officer seeks to harass and threaten the young man. No, this young man is not Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin. The question of whether or not this story ends in arrest or murder is not the point, either.
For some, the importance of this story and source of the young man’s harassment is strictly the color of his skin. For others, it could be the clothes the young man chose to wear or the way he walked down the street.
Today there are some conflicting ideas on the source of discrimination in modern American society. It is argued that if a black man carries himself in a way that exudes professionalism and class, then he is less likely to be a target of discrimination. This implies that if someone chooses to dress in clothes that could allow other individuals to encase them in a thug stereotype or persona, then it is natural for others to be threatened by them.
“It’s how people perceive you,” junior Psychology major Michael Smith Jr said. “How is someone supposed to protect you if they are scared?”
With the recent coverage of events in black communities involving young black men and law enforcement officials, a separation has emerged in the black community as a way to explain the occurrence of this common phenomenon.
The separation can be referred to as classism. This means that due to having a certain upbringing and opportunities, some feel as if they are immune to the hardship of discrimination. These opportunities could include their education or the environment in which they were raised.
Though events like Eric Garner’s death in Staten Island, N.Y. – that was caused by a policeman’s chokehold – have been happening for years, it is natural to cling to beliefs that ensure an individual’s safety.
“It’s people being afraid and wanting to cling to the hope that if I wear a suit, hopefully nothing happens to me,” senior Sociology major Marcus Lee said.
Lee went on to mention the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates several years ago. Though he fits the persona of an educated and professional black man, he was still accused of breaking into his own home.
The question is if a Morehouse student finds himself walking through a neighborhood street alone, will the law enforcement officer see the Morehouse education or the color of his skin?
“What we have to realize is that discrimination is an entity in which no one is immune from,” junior Political Science major Dontea Gresham said.
Whether discrimination is categorized by attire or solely the color of an individual’s skin, it will never be right to harass or question someone’s morality before that person even relays a single sentence.