Sketchy travelers: Speak up or mind your business?
The regrettable decision to not do more during a suspicious incident near Chicago's Union Station
I was dreading the commute from Chicago to Aurora for a marketing contract job. From the Metra station to Ogilvie Transportation Center to Chicago Union Station, I spent as much time traveling to work as I did actually working. Not being a morning person made that three-hour, one-way commute even worse. In need of coffee and a Metra nap, I was focused on getting from Point A to Point B. And that’s when I saw the couple.
A black girl who had to be around the age of 16 to 18 was walking next to a black guy who was probably in his very late teens to maybe 21. And I would’ve paid them no attention if not for the fact that he leaped into the revolving door opening with her and clutched her arm. Stiff as a Barbie doll, she looked straight ahead. Why couldn’t he wait for her to push the handle so he could get in after her? As they exited, she walked a little quicker and his fingers moved from her arm to the back of her neck. Just like that, she slowed down, still looking straight ahead. And I wondered what the hell was I seeing.
If I grabbed a security guard to report this black man walking with this black woman, would it look like racial profiling? What if this was an agitated brother who’d just had a jerkwater debate with his sister? What if the girl had just done something before I noticed them that made him respond this way? But even if she did do something, why was she not making any eye contact with him, not swatting his arm away and walking in a “make no sudden movements” way? Whether it was his sister or girlfriend, the body language was suspicious.
Every blue moon, I think of those two. And today’s Power 105 “The Breakfast Club” discussion on David Ryan Harris, American Airlines and trafficking children was one of those blue moons. In that singer’s case, a flight attendant thought he was trafficking his 7-year-old son on a flight. And while that’s wildly embarrassing (and frustrating) for the father and the (biracial) kid, it also brings up the topic of traveling while black.
In my case, the minor was older and not biracial. She was about my complexion. But something was off. My first thought watching that train-traveling couple was to mind my business. Why? I know what it’s like when someone will harass you for simply existing. But I do wonder if I would’ve been so quick to mind my business if they were not black. As a woman, should I have prioritized womanhood over race? These were all thoughts going through my mind before I made a final decision.