Color Me Bad

Chris Spence Reflects on Racism this March 21st

I can’t forget the horror that I felt when I was walking to a variety store with my predominantly Black students to celebrate our test results one hot afternoon. The boys had worked hard over the last few months and produced a terrific result, so we were on our way to get ice-cream. When the storekeeper saw me and twenty-five Black boys he quickly bolted the door and told us to beat it. He froze at the mere sight of us.

At that moment, I envisioned the avalanche of obstacles these boys would face throughout their lives, given this one negative perception that was most likely provoked by unfounded fear.

Racism

Although the idea of overt racism and discrimination appear to be outdated, given the progress and changes in social opinions, this case is proof of racism. That episode was so shocking and discouraging that it left me numb. The occurrence sparked anecdotes of how Black youth are often tailgated around stores by security personnel and floorwalkers when they shop, whether they are wearing a track suit or coming from church in a suit and tie.

This is a recurring complaint of young Black men, whom storekeepers say often come into stores in gatherings and seem suspicious. The storekeepers automatically believe a Black man must be a criminal. They just see black.

About Autor: Chris Spence (Christopher M. Spence) holds a doctorate in education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, lectures at York University and Humber College, and is the principal at Lawrence Heights Middle School in Toronto.

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