Tag: black lives matter

The Race Factor: A Personal Essay About the Pernicious Nature of Racial Bias

This past Friday, was my 55th birthday, and like usual my husband, Andrew, took me to an upscale restaurant in Atlanta to kick off the festivities.

He made dinner reservations at the prestigious  #NewYorkPrimeSteakhouse in Buckhead, a high-end restaurant known for serving the best steaks, and providing impeccable service.

Normally, we dine inside, but because of COVID-19, he requested for us to sit outside, in the patio area of the restaurant. Although we knew it would be chilly, we dressed warmly and were prepared for the cool weather.

When we arrived at the restaurant, a young, White hostess greeted us, and then promptly told my husband, who was dressed in a suit and bowtie, that he would need to remove his English cap because the restaurant had a no-hat policy for men.

We frequently dine at upscale eateries and know that they have dress codes, and we happily abide by them. Because we planned to eat outside, however, my husband asked if he could keep his hat on, but she and another hostess emphatically said the policy applied to their outside space, as well. So when we were seated, he took off his hat.

As we dined, however, we noticed that several White patrons were wearing items that were inconsistent with the restaurant’s dress code.

We saw guests wearing flip-flops, ripped jeans, and old t-shirts, but there was one set of guests, in particular, that grabbed our attention.

We had just finished our meal, and we were waiting for the waiter to come back with our credit card and the receipt when we noticed a White man and woman walking toward us with something on their faces.

Because the patio was dimly lit, it took a few seconds to realize that people coming toward us were wearing fully painted, zombie faces–gruesome teeth, and all.

As they passed our table, the guy wearing the Zombie face, actually, told my husband to ‘fuck-off’ because he didn’t like being stared at.

It was then that I realized that the restaurant was more than willing to relax the rules for their White guests, even to the extent of letting a couple of them dine with Zombie painted face masks, but they could not bend the rules and allow an African-American patron to wear his hat outside.

When we got home, I sent a Facebook message to the restaurant detailing the incident, and this evening, someone from the corporate office reached out to me and said that they would forward my complaint to the local establishment. But thinking about our experience led me to two important conclusions.

The first thing that I concluded is that it’s vitally important for our White brothers and sisters to understand that the #BlackLivesMatter movement has to be more than a protest, a march, or some other event.

This incident didn’t happen in some backwoods, small town somewhere. It happened in Atlanta, where we have had multiple racial protests, and where most of those marches have consisted of young, White people.

I honestly don’t think that those hostesses, or the restaurant management, for that matter, realize that they did something wrong. It’s even possible that some of them participated in one of the marches that took place in Atlanta, recently.

But systemic racism is invasive. It’s like cancer. It can show up anywhere, at any time, and often it presents itself subtly like being willing to relax the dress code for White patrons, but not for people of color. The point is this–if Black lives are really going to matter, they must matter in all of the spaces and places we go.

The second thing that I concluded is that racism, and the harsh realities that come with it, have taken its toll on the African-American spirit. Some of us are have been warped by the by lies America has fed up, and others have been whipped to the point of exhaustion.

I have Black friends who actually deny the existence of systemic racism. They think that incidents like the one I described are the exception and not the rule, and when they hear Blacks, like myself, speaking out against it, they feel that it’s much to do about nothing. I used to think that way, too, but I know better, now.

I’ve come to realize that no amount of education, money, or social status can protect a person of color from the pernicious effects of racism. My husband, Andrew, is well-educated, well-paid, well-spoken, and well-dressed, but the only thing the White hostess saw that night was a Black man in a cap.

I also have family members and other friends who are fed up with racial discrimination in America. A few of them have even contemplated leaving the country. However, we must ‘not grow weary in doing well”. As Congressman John Lewis said, we need to “make good trouble”. We must press on in meaningful, constructive ways.

Racism, whether conscious or unconscious, passive or aggressive, is toxic, and it’s imperative that we call it out and expose the injustices when the opportunities present themselves.

No longer do I pray, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” My new prayer is that God would grant me the courage to change the things I can no longer accept.

A Very Personal “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Encounter


Many of you know that my husband, Andrew, is the managing editor of The Champion Newspaper, a weekly publication in the metro-Atlanta area. You should also remember that Tuesday, November 3, was Election Day which means that the media has the job of reporting the final results of election races around the area.

Election Day ended up being a very long work day for him since the returns don’t start to come in until after the polls close at 7:00pm, but since he works so close to home, he was able to come home for supper, rest for a little while and then head over to the Board of Elections office around 7:30pm.  As he was leaving, I asked him when he thought he’d be finished and he told me that he should be done around 9:30 or so.

When the clock in the kitchen showed 9:30 pm and he had not arrived home, I wasn’t very concerned because Andrew has covered Election Day for the past several years and getting the final results can sometimes take a little longer than expected. So I went into the bedroom and laid down. I fell asleep, but woke up when he called to tell me that he was going to have to go back to the office. The lady who does the graphic design was having trouble uploading things remotely and would need him to physically go in and upload the graphics. Again, this was not unusual.

He finally arrived home around 12:00 am and it was then that he shared the scary encounter he had just with the police.

It seems that when he went to his office, the alarm panel was having some problems and he accidentally set it off. He quickly keyed in the code unarming the system and since he hadn’t received a phone call from the alarm company, he assumed everything was okay. He proceeded to his office, turned on the computer, called the graphic design employee, and went about the business of putting the final details of the election results onto the pages of the newspaper.

As he talked on the phone in the office, he could hear noises coming from the hallway and so he told the employee to hold on and walked over to the door to see if he could hear more. At that point, he heard a voice yell, “This is the police. Come out with your hands up!”.

Stunned, he yelled back and said, “I’m coming out with my hands up.” and he slowly opened the door and entered the hallway. The three officers, one of which had his gun drawn, were at the other end of the long hallway. They instructed him to walk toward them. He walked toward them with his hands in the air (his phone was still in his hand and graphic design artist was still on the phone). When he got about halfway down the corridor, they then instructed him to put his phone on the floor, turn around, put his hands behind his head and walk backwards to them.

When he reached them, he was told to turn around again and they proceeded to ask him a series of questions–”Why was he in the building? What was he doing there?  Did he have a key to the building?” He told them that he was the managing editor of The Champion Newspaper, that it was Election Night and that he was working on the newspaper.

At that point, they asked him for identification which he promptly showed them. They asked to see his key to the building and told him to use it to unlock the door which he did. One of the officers asked if he would mind if they searched him and he gave them permission to search his body. They asked him if he had work identification and he told them that it was on his desk back in his office, so they walked him back to his office where he showed them his work identification. They ended the interrogation by asking him to give them specific details about the election. The police officers told him that there had been recent burglaries in the building, gave him their business card and finally left.

Obviously, this was an incident that could have went very badly as we have seen with other situations in recent months and years. So I wanted to use this as an opportunity to share a few important insights.

First and foremost, as a believer, this incident confirmed for me the importance of praying for my husband. Whenever he leaves the house, I walk him to the door, kiss him goodbye and I stand in the doorway and wave as he pulls out of the driveway and drives down the street.  In those moments, I pray for the Lord to bless, keep him and to protect him from hurt, harm and danger.  I’ve prayed those prayers too many times to count, and to be perfectly honest, sometimes I’ve wondered if they even work. Well, they do. So, wives, pray for your husbands because we never know what they will face each day.

Another important factor in this situation is possessing a spirit of humility and self-control.

Those of you who know Andrew know that he is a gentleman and I mean that in the truest sense of the word–he is a gentle man. He’s naturally reserved and pleasant. He doesn’t have a “thug” bone in his body. He’s well-learned, well spoken and well-mannered, and well dressed and these character traits have served him well.

Keep in mind, though, that it was very late and it had been a long day. He was tired and ready to go home. The last thing he expected to have to deal with was three police officers with guns drawn yelling at him to come out of his office with his hands up. He could have copped an attitude (pun intended) and said a lot of things in those moments, but he didn’t. He remained calm, collected his thoughts and cooperated and did what the police asked him to do. He knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong and he believed that he would have a chance to explain why he was there.

Now, some of you might be drawing the conclusion that the situation ended well because my husband is a good, black man and did as he was told, but that would be an inaccurate oversimplification. If we are to move forward as a nation and achieve racial reconciliation, it is vitally important to acknowledge the fact that insidious, pernicious racism still exists, that law enforcement, for the most part, has preconceived, negative ideas about black men, and that there are many times when innocent men of color who are doing nothing wrong (as in the case of the former professional tennis player, James Blake, who was tackled by a NYC police officer as he stood waiting outside of his hotel), still get treated badly. This brings me to my final point.

In order to have the best and most favorable outcome in these types of situations, respect cannot be one-sided. It must be shown by both parties. It is unreasonable to think that a police officer or a citizen can treat the other with disdain and disrespect and there not be some kind of negative repercussions.

The officers in this case came to the premises based on a legitimate call from the security company. They had reason to believe that an unauthorized person was in the building. Add to that the fact that there was an unlocked door (which my husband knew nothing about since he had locked the door he entered when he came into the building) which made things look even more suspicious.

I appreciate that the police officers took the time to listen to my husband as he explained what he was doing in the building that night. I also think that they exhibited a degree of civility when they “asked” him if they could frisk him for weapons and I’m grateful that they did not manhandle him.

Still, the idea of a police officer searching my law-abiding husband’s body like a common criminal after he showed his identification and explained why he was there is highly offensive to me and my feelings are tempered only by the fact that “all’s well, that ends well”. I wonder if they would have taken those same measures if my husband’s boss, who happens to be a white man, had been the one to step out of the office and into the hallway. Somehow, I don’t think they would have, but I don’t know. All I know is that my husband is home, safe and sound, and for that I am grateful.