The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Freedom Sithole Headshot

Trayvon Martin and Black on Black Racial Profiling

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

There is a story that you may not be aware of involving the shooting to death of an unarmed 17-year-old black kid Trayvon Martin in the US state of Florida.

Trayvon Martin died for the crime of walking whilst being black in a gated community in Florida.

It is not my intention to go through the details of what happened again, you can read a useful summary here.

There has been growing discussion in the American media and online about the role racial stereotyping and profiling played in Trayvon's death.

My first reaction as a black male was: I know what that's like.

I remember a time in the nineties when I would be stopped by the police whilst walking or cycling around the more salubrious parts of Coulsdon, Beckenham and Tunbridge Wells, asked what I was doing in the neighbourhood and were I was going. I can still remember the humiliation I would feel at being stopped, especially if anyone else was there to witness it.

As the Trayvon Martin story has developed I have read a number of articles by leading Black American journalists including Jonathan Capehart, on racial profiling and the burden it puts on black males, young and not so young alike.

I have often found myself nodding in agreement and railing against the negative stereotypes of black males that are so prevalent in the media, both here and there.

As I have spent more time thinking about the injustice of racial profiling, I have come to a sad and disturbing realisation. Somewhere along the line in my 35 years on this planet, I have gone from being the victim of racial profiling, to being both a victim and a perpetrator of racial profiling.

Whilst sitting at work during my lunch break, trying to think about examples of racial stereotyping I have recently witnessed for a blog post, I realised that if I was to be totally honest, most of the recent examples I could think of, were of me racially profiling young black males.

I realised that when I spot black men of a certain age, dressed in a certain way, I cannot help but react with a degree of suspicion. It's not a question of me chasing them down the street or thinking they don't belong. I simply become more aware of my surroundings, more wary and alert for anything that might be out of place.

I could maybe excuse this wariness as my being more careful in a dangerous world, but I must also honestly say that I do not get this same reaction when I see white or Asian kids who are dressed in the same way. I do not have the same reaction, the same increased alertness, the same slight sense of fear.

The questions that I keep asking myself this lunchtime are when and why did I become so wary of my own. When did all the negative stereotypes seep so deep into my psyche that I fear, no matter how slightly, those who should remind me most of what I once was?

Around the Web

Trayvon Martin Shooting Doesn't Slow 'Stand Your Ground' Bills