The invisible visibility of black women and police
Roll the dice: Women and privilege, or black women and discrimination
There is a strange dynamic between black women and police officers. There are moments when we may as well be invisible, not seen as a threat, just a woman on-the-go. Then there are moments when we are seen as more black than we are women. Then there’s that third viewing, the complex dynamic when we are black women who are the family members, friends and bystanders around black men. Depending on the view, the treatment follows.
When black women are just seen as women — or someone’s daughter
When I saw the group of white officers walk onto the el train, I glanced up and went back to texting. One sat down next to me while the other two stood over us. I was still texting away. The officer sitting next to me glanced over and said, “You really type fast — like my daughter.”
“I’m not playing around,” I mumbled. “I have shit to do.”
Then I snapped my fingers quickly in a get-a-move-on fashion. He copied my finger snapping. We both laughed. I finally looked around the train and noticed there were plenty of empty seats. These three white, male officers could’ve sat anywhere they wanted but chose to surround me. I finished my text, half-listened to them talk about their own kids who are also fast typists and opened a book I had on my lap to continue reading. They barely acknowledged me after that but waved goodbye when they got off the train.
I thought about this moment while reading John Ross “White Privilege and #BlackLivesMatter.” There have been many moments when I strolled past police SUVs, vans and cars, and barely got a glance, similar to white men like him. The usual reaction is indifference. However, I’ve interviewed a few as a journalist, one of which was a white officer who looked up my website after a phone conversation. He then emailed me to tell me I was “cute.”
Another was a black man — and noticeably handsome — who, after a year of casual chatting and flirting on my way home on the Metra, told me he was a narcotics officer. (I would never date an officer. If he wilds out, who could I possibly call for help?) These are those moments when I am seen as a woman first.