In the more than 10 years I’ve been a degreed librarian, and the 20 that I’ve been paid to work in various libraries, I’ve had friends discriminated against for their race, their sex, their preferences, and their looks. They’ve been harassed and threatened for:
- holding hands
- kissing in public
- being more than 3 people together
- talking too loud
- talking in a difference language
- wearing revealing clothing
- dressing like a slut
- asking for it
- drinking in a bar
- driving in the wrong neighborhood driving while brown
- walking in the wrong neighborhood
- being black
- being brown
- being female
- being GLBTQ.
Basically being anything other than a straight, white, American male.
I don’t know what happened that night in Ferguson, Missouri. I know is that Michael Brown is dead, too soon. I know that in the nights since citizens have been sprayed with tear gas and flash bombs. I know that leaders took days to take action. I know that when I see more and more stories like these, I think about the ones we don’t see.
I think about the everyday bigotry and hatred that those who don’t conform to the “ideal” face. I think about the harassment that friends and I receive at conferences and symposiums and online at the hands/fingers of our peers. I think about the catcalling that we get on the street.
I think about my nieces and nephews and all the colors of their skin, and the hardships that their parents have gone through already, and I pray that they won’t find the world such a harsh place. I pray that they will find a more forgiving world, where they won’t have to know which neighborhoods are safe to walk in, and which are not. One where wearing a certain outfit won’t make them “fair game.”
And I know we’re far from the world I want for them because the teens that I work with face the same things that Michael did. They’re stopped for walking in the wrong neighborhood after dark and questioned about being there- yet if I’m walking with them we’re never questioned. If they’re in a group walking around the mall, security will follow them from store to store until a bigger group comes around; yet, those same guards will find something else to do once the teens start talking to That Guy in his t-shirt and shorts.
I’ve heard the stories from their parents of them being stopped by the police for no reason- nothing wrong with the vehicle, no violations, plates and stickers all up to date- and yet they’re pulled over with lights and sirens and then another police car is called while ID is run for 30 minutes or more. No ticket is issued since everything is totally legal- they were stopped for DWB (driving while brown/black). There’s nothing really that I can do where I am for those in Ferguson except send money for aid. But I can pray and work for change where I am, for those around me, and for those dear to me.