It’s summer 2018. School is out and kids are restless. The old adage comes to mind, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” That in mind, an involved parent knows to keep their child busy or risk them getting in trouble. That rings especially true for children in minority and impoverished communities. These kids normally don’t have a summer job to go to. They are not enrolled in summer school. For the most part, they stay home all day. Instead of getting into trouble, you encourage these kids to do something productive. Go cut grass or sell water or deliver papers. Anything to take up some of their free time while earning a few dollars. The more privileged kids get to do it. Why not the others? It sounds reasonable enough. But whether it’s white guilt, white entitlement, white privilege or whatever label you choose to give it, the summer of 2018 has ushered in a season of discouragement. Stories abound this summer of black youth defying stereotypes and being productive only to be accosted by white suspicion. There is no shortage of white criticism when black kids are killed in the streets or busted for stealing. These “thugs” need to get a job or need to do something with their lives is the usual rhetoric. But when these “thugs” are doing something different, how does society respond?
12-year-old Reginald Fields was deemed a threat while mowing the lawn so a neighbor called police. Founder of Mr. Reggie’s Lawn Cutting Service, little Reggie was mowing the lawn of one of his clients. While doing so, he accidentally mowed one foot onto a neighbor’s lawn. There are no dividers or visible property lines. An honest mistake for a 12-year-old. Apparently the neighbor didn’t see it that way and called police on Reggie.
Reggie’s client, Lucille Holt, was perplexed when police showed up outside her home. She later learned that her neighbor called police on the kids to complain that they were in her yard. The neighbor fussed that the kids had cut about a foot onto her property.
Luckily for Reggie and his crew, the officers that responded from the Maple Heights Police Department weren’t the stereotypical ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ type. According to Reggie the officers said nothing to him and allowed him to finish his work. In spite of that though, he felt discouraged that police were called when he did nothing wrong. Since news broke of this incident, people around the country have reached out to Reggie and started a GoFundMe. People have raised thousands of dollars in his name and he has been able to upgrade his equipment.
Before Reggie, 8-year-old Jordan was selling bottled water outside of her home in California. She was raising money to go to Disneyland. She wasn’t robbing, stealing, selling drugs… Nope. She was selling bottled water. Alison Ettel, dubbed Permit Patty, apparently had her panties in a bunch and decided to call the police on the 8-year-old. Jordan’s older cousin was there at the time and recorded the ridiculous encounter Ettel. At one point in the video, Ettel attempts to duck down behind a stoop only to have Jordan’s cousin follow with her cell phone.
“This woman don’t wanna let a little girl sell some water,” the cousin says. “She’s calling the police on an 8-year-old little girl. The world’s gonna see you, boo,” the cousin said.
Ettel stands back up and accuses the little girl of illegally selling water. “Yeah and illegally selling water without a permit,” she says in the video.
After the video went viral and news media pounced, Ettel defended her actions saying that she only pretended to be calling the cops. She said she spoke with security. That turned out to be a lie after reports and the audio of the 911 call was released.
In the aftermath of this fiasco, little Jordan was gifted a trip to Disney. Ettel, who sell weed for dogs, has lost her business network becoming a social pariah in the cannabis industry. Magnolia Wellness, a marijuana dispensary, wrote in a social media post, “As of today, Magnolia will no longer be carrying Treatwell Tinctures. After seeing this video of their CEO, calling the police on an 8-year-old entrepreneur selling water on a hot day, we decided without hesitation that we could no longer patronize her company.”
Finally, there’s 12-year-old Uriah in Ohio. It was his first day on his first job ever, a paper route. Uriah was delivering newspapers when he realized he was leaving them at the wrong addresses. Instead of just letting it be, he doubled back to fix his error. One Nosey Nancy observed Uriah and called police to report “suspicious behavior”. Transcripts of that call was released and according to ABC 6, this is what she said:
“It looked like at first they were delivering newspapers or something, but I noticed they were walking up to the houses with nothing in hand and one of them came back with something. I mean, I don’t want to say something was going on, but it just seemed kind of suspicious.”
After the incident Uriah’s mom, Brandie, took to Facebook in disbelief that in 2018 her son would be subjected to racial profiling. In her post she wrote:
“Sad I can’t even teach my son the value of working without someone whispering and looking at us out the side of their eye perhaps because we DON’T look like a person that belongs in their neighborhood. Police officer pulls up and asks us questions as if we were intruding in their area. Totally disgusted and disturbed that this kind of behavior still exists.”
In addition, Brandie also apologized to the people of Upper Arlington for bringing her ’12-year-old African American son into your neighborhood to deliver the paper and make a few dollars.” She insisted that no harm was intended by their presence.
Police did respond to the call but according to Officer Bryan McKean who took the call, it was very quickly obvious that there was nothing suspicious taking place.
In conclusion, black kids aren’t able to do anything to escape the judgemental and prejudiced eyes of white America. No matter how many times black youth jump through the prescribed hoops and play the game by “their” rules, these youths will continue to be subjected to the harsh bias of bigots. The constant insinuation of a criminal element attached to these youth will only bring about the very same. Bigots are molding tomorrow’s thugs today. Much like the prison system and juvenile detention, they largely create the very same element they are tasked to prevent. This is summer 2018. This is America. Black kids are in a constant state of harassment even as they try to excel and beat the odds. May the force be with them.