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If there was a non-threatening Negro Olympics, my height, Afro and confidence would probably disqualify me. I’m not hardly hiding my color in the bushes. However, I wouldn’t say that I look like I’m about to pop off and bust a cap in anyone just for living. More likely, judging by appearance, to go participate in a protest than a street fight (with the exception of the days that I’m more ‘Prissy Missy’ looking with my pearls and my little dresses, because like many of you, I’m more fluid than static in style).

Yet and still, I may as well be dressed as the chicks in Apache’s “Gangster B*tch” video, because far too often I see White women clutching their purses at the sight of me. Seriously. I can just be sashaying about the magical aisles of Target or schlepping a basket of hippie groceries through the crowds of Trader Joe’s and I’ll see it happen: the subtle look of recognition- “A brown person is behind me” and then an grabbing, tightening of one’s grasp on or even a relocation of the purse by some White woman.  And these broads ain’t Rockefeller daughters! It’s always some chick who looks like she’s worth $26 and a can of Spam who seems to think I’m out to stick her for her paper. Tell me something, Judy? Do gangsters eat hummus? Do thugs buy tofu? And in all seriousness…are women out here snatching purses like this? Because in all my years of “urban” life, I have never once seen that happen.

About two years ago, I was walking near my home in Bed Stuy with two friends: another girl (then a school administrator dressed for work) and a guy (a teaching artist who is very artsy). We  looked like we could’ve been supporting cast members in Love Jones. As we waited for a bus, we noticed a young White woman about our age who was, in attire-terms, my doppelganger: she had on my same H&M coat in another color, was carrying a similar reusable Whole Foods bag and had on the same sort of boots. She decided to give up on the bus and start walking and we made a similar call a few moments later…at which point she returned to the bus stop, despite the fact that there was no bus in sight. “Did she just…” I was the first to peep what she did, but the others brushed it off, until there was a five minute dance of her adjusting her location and making sure she was nowhere near us as both parties walked up the ave. She made a point to try and stay behind us, and we refused to let her get there (hey, who’s to say she wasn’t the robber). Before it was all over, one of us informed her that if she was scared of us, then she shouldn’t be in New York at all and should go back to where she came from.

I grew up in a liberal, mixed race, mixed income area in Chicago and I experienced the purse clutching more than one would think for such a place. I am all for women making themselves feel safe, but to think that a well-dressed, well-spoken young woman is out here snatching bags just because she’s Black reveals a major disconnect from reality. A woman- or man, for that matter-in dusty Jordans and an old FUBU jersey doesn’t deserve to be profiled either, yet I can just imagine how a woman who would be afraid of me would act if she saw someone who looked a bit less polished. Poor sister might just get maced.

Is it just me? Or have you, Clutchettes and Gents, had similar experiences with ridiculous racial profiling? Vent, my people, vent. 

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  • This NEVER happened to me until a couple weeks ago! I was so appalled! And so insulted… I had to tweet about it (like that would do anything for me. lol) But, basically, I was in the loooong line at Walmart (I’m a college student, I need cheap food, except you can miss me with their produce.) So I see an open line down the way. So I quickly try to shuttle past one register with my shopping cart filled with food, my own purse, and my own wallet in hand. The lady at the register sees me coming, looks dead at me with that surprised expression on her face, and quickly turns around to “relocate” her purse in her cart and she clutched it TIIIGHT! I gave her the, “You really couldn’t believe that I’m some type of purse snatcher” face, and kept it moving. I did a quick turn around, and she did not need that purse for anything. I felt so insulted… I was dressed nicely, as I had other places to go, so why do I look like a thief? I guess I’m disqualified for the non-threatening Negro Olympics too…

  • Kim

    This made me laugh at loud ” It’s always some chick who looks like she’s worth $26 and a can of Spam” lol

    I’ve noticed this a couple times myself but it is what it is…. I have brothers who both happen to be dark skinned and over 6 ft tall…..lets just say they go through a little worse than we do.

    • Kim

      *laugh out loud

  • So, is your gist that classism (humus, tofu) should protect one from racism?