I didn’t know ‘Strolling While Black’ was an issue – until now.
Donald Sherman, a lawyer and father, is confused and frustrated.
Sherman, who is African-American, was pushing a stroller carrying his baby, Caleb, at Kingman and Heritage Islands Park near the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. last week when racism took hold.
A white woman who was jogging past Sherman – for reasons that are still mind-boggling – called the police to report “a suspicious man walking the bike path with a baby.”
So weeks after two black men were arrested in Starbucks for planning a business meeting and three black women were harassed unnecessarily for checking into an AirBnb, Sherman is questioned by a law enforcement officer just because he wanted his baby to get some fresh air.
Sherman posted his account on social media last week:
“30 minutes into our stroll I got flagged by a security officer in one of those cars marked “Special Police” on the side. I was a bit confused as to whether she was looking for me to stop but she honked twice and pulled over so I got the picture. She told me that she received a complaint from someone who said there was a “suspicious man” walking on the bike path with a baby. She said that when the complainant was asked to describe my race, she declined.”
Sherman said his interaction with the security officer was pleasant but it doesn’t excuse the reason Sherman was questioned in the first place.
Why would this woman find Sherman so threatening? Why would she feel Sherman was “suspicious?” Would she have called the police had Sherman been white?
“If this complaint had been made to a different security officer or an actual cop, things could have gone very differently,” Sherman wrote. “This is exactly why we have to talk about white privilege and why black lives matter. Because at any point doing anything anywhere my safety and my child’s safety could [have] been in jeopardy because [of] some well-intentioned complaint.”
Sherman was pushing his baby’s stroller in Southeast D.C.. It’s a historically black neighborhood east of the Anacostia River that is undergoing a stark demographic transformation and where gentrification is a dirty word in some circles.
Not everyone is pleased by what some call progress. Home prices in the area are rising as development increases and many Black folks are being priced out of their own community.
“East of the river is sort of seen as the next frontier for development,” Gloria Robinson, a community organizer, told The Washington City Paper. “Everything that could be developed pretty much has been developed.”
For the white woman who made the call, a Black man taking his baby for a stroll in a gentrifying neighborhood felt Sherman was “suspicious” even in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Could it have been that since Sherman’s child is much lighter than he is, she thought the child didn’t belong to him?
So where can Black men feel comfortable walking these days? We get harassed while driving or walking through white neighborhoods and now we’re even being questioned while walking in what is still a Black community.
Sherman, to his credit, remained positive.
“Today is a good day,” Sherman wrote of his experience, “so we are gonna finish our stroll.”
One day Sherman may decide to tell Caleb about his racial strolling experience to help his son navigate life as a young Black man in America. It will be sad if that conversation is still necessary when baby Caleb grows up.
What do you think?
PHOTO: Donald Sherman FB
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