Guest Blogger – Nate Littlejohn – Young & Black in the Suburbs
Nate Littlejohn is a Senior majoring in Digital Media at the University of Central Missouri. Nate is inspired by the youth in creating art to entertain and influence others. GO CHIEFS!!!
It was the year 2013, me and my little brother had just picked up 3 friends of mine, KC, SL, and SC to head up to North Kansas City to play basketball at our friend BK’s house. We all grew up together; this was a summer where we hadn’t linked up in a while so we had planned to kick it at BK’s place all day. So all 5 of us arrive at BK’s place. We meet up with BK, then we head to the basketball court in the subdivision. That’s when things started to seem funny. As we we’re walking to the court it felt like someone was watching us. Now we weren’t naive to the fact that we’re 6 black males walking around in a predominantly white neighborhood. We knew eyes were going to be on us. With being a black man these are things that we’re not just privy to but are taught by our parents and molded by growing up. Being aware of our surroundings and not giving people a reason to stereotype us as just a thug up to no good. So minding our own and not causing any trouble is what my friends and me did. As sad as it is, even with causing no problems we knew we were still bound to get some suspicious looks by the neighbors, and surely enough we did.
For one as we walked to the courts I literally saw someone peering through their window curtain monitoring us. Despite that we continued to mind our business and play ball. Then the next thing happened. After playing basketball for an hour or so an older white male walking his dog comes by to interrupt our game. He just out of the blue starts asking questions. Who are you? Do you guys live here? BK lived there, which we told him, and we were guest of his. So we were well in our right to be there. Luckily BK’s dad had just walked up to get the guy off our backs, so the guy finally walked away. At that point it was made clear that the people living there did not want a group of black kids walking the streets of their suburb, so they took it a step further. After we left the courts we all made a run to get something to eat around the corner. The weird thing is as we turn out of the subdivision we see a police van driving in the opposite direction. We’re all a little spooked, but all we did was play basketball. So we thought that the van surely couldn’t have been for us. Right? Wrong!
So we get back from eating and decide to go swimming in the neighborhood pool and guess what? Not even 30 minutes go by before the police van we saw earlier pulls up on us! Not a police car, a paddy wagon pulls up! Then alongside the van two other police cars pull up also. Two cops jump out of the two police cars as the cop driving the van stays in his vehicle. The two cops walk toward us, one a white male, the other a black male. They immediately start asking questions, just like the older man walking his dog from earlier. Who are you? What are you guys doing? Do you guys live here? Once again we had to explain ourselves of how BK lived there and the rest of us were there visiting. After answering all the cop’s questions, they claim they had been receiving complaints from the locals about us. We were completely floored. All we did that day was play basketball and swim in the pool and we got the cops called on us for it. The cops didn’t give any detail on what the complaints were, but I know for a fact who ever called the cops fabricated some story about us saying we were smoking weed, being loud, for all we know they probably told the cops we had a gun. We didn’t have any weed, we weren’t being any louder than anybody else, and none of us owned a gun. We did not break one law that day, just some young black men minding our business. Those cops pulled up ready to hail us all away to jail in that van, all because we were racially profiled and were seen as a threat.
By the grace of God the situation didn’t escalate any further and we weren’t taken to jail. But we were furious! Its situations like this black people go through everyday, most a lot more severe than ours. With all the recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement, this has created tension and frustration in my mind, and many others. I always find myself asking, why are they (racist) so fearful/hateful towards us (people of color)? It’s an issue that the black community needs and wants addressed. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important. This is why the Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest is important. Whether you agree with the decision to kneel for the national anthem or not, the key to the protest is that he is putting a spotlight on the oppression and racism black people have been dealing with and protesting against for years. The backlash against the protest say “well there’s a better way to go about protesting, or I would have done it a different way.”
Racist people shouted the same thing towards blacks back in the 60’s when they would march, or hold the sit-ins at the white only diners. So what exactly is the best way to protest? Colin Kaepernick is making America uncomfortable just by bringing up the conversation again. I know people of different backgrounds die every day, I know that it is not just black people who have unjustly lost their lives since the inception of man, I know this is a sinful world and the blood spilt in the past and the coming future will never fully be remedied, but I also know there has a been an undeniable trend of black lives lost to the hands of law enforcement that social media is casting a bigger light on. Like the bad, there’s also good in the world, and with conditioning I believe the good can outweigh the bad. We all need more progressive dialogue between each other and to try harder in having a mutual understanding of each other’s perspectives and the hardships we face, so we can have a better future for our kids to live in. Most times that seems to be asking too much. I’m no politician, I don’t claim I have all the answers, but I tell this story to just simply give my perspective, to communicate.