At the risk of starting a comments section race riot and against my better judgement…
I’m going to share with you an interview I conducted on St. Patrick’s Day on the Country Club Plaza. A conversation with 39 year-old suburban mother of two, Ann Thompson. Thomson was there on a shopping spree at Urban Outfiters, H&M, Bananna Republic and Standard Style, if that tells you anything about her.
Thompson’s take on the scene outside Seville upon observing the behavior of dozens of black urban teens and the Plaza Security police in afternoon on a warm, sunny afternoon?
"The thing is, the kids that were there weren’t dressed like most white kids would, but they weren’t dressed poorly," Thompson says. ‘They looked like kids who took pride in how they dressed and got dressed up to go out.
"But I felt bad about it because they were being ushered here or there – five to ten kids in a group," she continues. "I mean, that’s called loitering and if you had a group of white kids loitering, chances are they’d probably be indignant if the security did to them what they were doing to the black kids. You know like, ‘I have the right to be here. You can’t tell me where I can stand.’
"The sad thing is, you have this group of black kids with nowhere to go and they’re loitering. And when they’re asked to move it’s because it’s because they’re seen as loiterers and a threat. Where the white kids are just loiterers. No one’s uncomfortable or afraid of the white kids, they’re just a nuisance. The group of black kids are a nuisance and a threat."
"So when that kid said, ‘We be movin,’ before the security guys even reached him, it was an acknowledgement that they know that they’re perceived as a threat," Thompson says. "And the fact that they have that kind of self-awareness is what’s wrong. That’s what hurts our society because it is racism.
"These kids were on good behavior as far as I’m concerned – they were on good behavior. Yet they knew they were perceived as a threat and what a terrible weight to bear when you’re 13. That’s just wrong. I mean, that’s sad.
"They were cleancut looking; they were well-dressed and they were not acting up. But they were still being treated as though they were going to do something wrong. But I have to side with the Plaza, too. When you’re on the Plaza, you don’t just see big groups of people standing around. They’re constantly in motion and standing around and doing nothing is loitering."
Therein lies the conundrum – that even in a best case scenario- urban teens on the Plaza or at Ward Parkway‘s spruced up new AMC Theaters and Cinemark in Merriam have their work cut out finding their place in a world that largely mistrusts them.
Merely because of the color of their skin.