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“Suspicious” [Black] Person Moving In? Or Maybe They Treat Everyone That Way?


Moved out of our house yesterday, into a friend of a friend’s house a few blocks away. I moved quite a few boxes and other things from our car last night into the house. I was jokingly wondering to myself if I’d look “suspicious” carrying several boxes of things into our temporary home since Albany is 4% Black.

This morning, we get a knock on the door and two police officers say they are responding to ‘suspicious’ activity that some neighbors reported From yesterday. They asked for my husband’s license. He is a white man. As they asked, I was wondering what could have happened if he had gone into work today and I had answered the door. I don’t think I’m paranoid but will ask the question…

Are you a Brown or Black person who has ever moved into a new and mostly white neighborhood, only to have the police come because neighbors thought something was ‘suspicious’?

This is complex, of course, because my husband also carried things to the house EARLY that morning. I stayed at the other place moving and cleaning things. After we moved out of our permanent house that morning, we went straight to a July 4 family event at the park, and then went back to our new temporary housing after 4pm. I had not been to the place since I checked it out 4 weeks ago to see if we wanted to stay there. Anyway, my husband asked that I take all the stuff out of the van because his back was shot, so I went back and forth for about 20 minutes and am wondering if that was the ‘suspicious’ activity they were talking about.

Or, maybe they just have a neighborhood policy in which the neighbors agree to call the police when they see people going in and out of a house that aren’t the family members that usually reside there. As long as they report ‘suspicious’ behavior to police when it involves any person they see, I’m okay with that, but still, this is the place where, last year, when a Muslim woman and her daughters came to pick up some free cycle things from us, a white woman yelled at the Muslim elder, “Go back to your own country” when she didn’t like that the elder had double parked temporarily to pick up some rugs from us.

My husband joked, after the police left, “Who would bring an entire moving truck to a house they wanted to illegally occupy?” Yea, they’d be incognito about it, right?

I write about these situations all the time because yea, it’s emotionally painful to know that there is a strong possibility that people make their ‘sincere’ decisions based on racism… And homophobia….and elitism… Etc. It’s the repetitive things like this that happen– particularly in an increasingly hostile American US climate in which  there is documentation of racial and xenophobic profiling (or whatever you want to call it) happening all the time. When I mention it, of course, almost all the time it is white people who need to comment and then me that I’m making  big deal about nothing (but how can you have the audacity to say that when there is extensive documentation that shows how racism/white supremacy/xenophobia are weaved into the consciousnesses of most of the mainstream population in the USA?)  Yes, I may never know why the police were called, but the mere fact that I have to always be on edge and ‘wonder’ if it’s because I don’t look like Taylor Swift, that that is why. 

Ask yourself this: Who looks ‘suspicious’ to you and why? Is it informed by racial bias? Or heterosexist bias? Or elitist bias? (I could go on and on about the list of biases, but you get the ideas)…..

Anyway, other than that, at least we finally moved into a temporary situation for 4 weeks. I am sitting here at the park down the street with my Nina Simone earrings on and lovely Afro, glistening with Shea butter and castor oil. I look haggard and tired. At nearly 6 months pregnant, moving and hauling sh*t for a week straight with minimal sleep was tough… But I survived.

As I sit here at the park, I’m tempted to start a ‘polite’ public dialogue, as the only visibly Black person here, and ask folk under what situations would they call the police if they think someone is ‘suspicious’…. Seems like the USA, in general, lacks these general spontaneous conversations in mostly white spaces like the Albany Memorial playground (or other mostly white spaces in the East Bay area). In general Albany has a diversity and inclusivity problem on many levels. The lack of affordable housing, the ‘No Section 8’ for rentals ads, the horrible rent control, the fact that the Albany Unified School District didn’t have a Black History Celebration event for students until 2016, the Albany movie theater having shown nearly all white movies during the past year (with the exception of a few Asian movies)– really point to a particular type of person that they do want as part of their overall community (whether it is conscious or not). It’s this backdrop that has had me really questioning why the police were called in this morning.

(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014)interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current lecture circuit focus on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical FoodscapeIn tandem with this book project, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”




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