Black boys are afraid to travel through white neighborhoods in America.
This isn’t necessarily a startling revelation for Black folks in our republic, but the new study by The Ohio State University may be illuminating for some in mainstream America.
Here’s how the study worked: Researchers gave 506 black youths in Columbus, Ohio smartphones that tracked their locations for a week. They asked them to rate how safe they felt in various neighborhoods five times a day.
“It doesn’t have to be a majority white neighborhood for African-American boys to feel more threatened,” Christopher Browning, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at The Ohio State University, told Ohio State News “It just has to be more white than what they typically encounter.”
Consider this undeniable reality: Black boys are forced to embrace the notion of racism at much younger ages and preparing them for potential racial strife has, for some, become the new normal.
The study comes at a time when Black boys have been racially profiled, shot and killed, and subjected to racial slurs in white neighborhoods across the country.
And recently, there has been a spate of incidents where white residents have called the police on innocent Black folks who were just going about their everyday lives.
In the Cleveland area recently, neighbors called the police on a 12-year-old boy who was cutting grass in his neighborhood; white neighbors called police on Kevin Moore, a Black firefighter in Oakland, California, as he was conducting a legally mandated safety inspection, dressed in his official firefighter uniform and carrying his city-issued identification; a white woman in San Francisco –dubbed “Permit Patty” — called the police on an 8-year-old Black girl for selling bottles of water in her neighborhood; a white woman in Oakland, California, nicknamed “BBQ Becky” called the police on a Black family who she accused of grilling in a public park illegally; Donald Sherman, an African-American lawyer and father, was pushing a stroller carrying his baby, Caleb, in Washington, DC, when a white woman who was jogging past Sherman called the police to report “a suspicious man walking the bike path with a baby.”
“We’ve seen a lot of stories in the media lately about the police being called on Black people going about their business in white areas,” Browning said. “This may help explain why Black youth felt more threatened in parts of town where they were exposed to more white people.”
Many black parents fear their sons could end up dead like Trayvon Martin, the innocent teenager who was gunned down by George Zimmerman in 2012 in Sanford, Florida while Martin was walking down the street.
The results of the study may not be surprising for Black parents as it confirms what they’ve been saying publicly and privately for years: that their boys are targeted by bigoted whites influenced by racial stereotypes.
This study resonates with me, too. While growing up in Detroit and riding my bike around the city, my father warned me about venturing into suburban white neighborhoods. I listened to my father and steered clear but braver kids who peddled through white communities could get beaten up just because they were black.
Today, Black boys and young men likely feel even more at risk then when I was growing up. In this racially divisive nation, President Donald Trump often signals to white supremacist supporters that it’s appropriate to denigrate Black people.
“Part of the experience for Black kids is having to leave their home neighborhoods to go to places that might not be as welcoming,” Browning said. “They are typically going to places with amenities like restaurants and movie theaters that may not be available in their neighborhoods. And these places are probably going to be whiter than the places they live.”
Browning’s confirms what Black people have been saying for decades — but it may be more significant today than ever before.
What do you think?
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