The recent incident with nine-year-old Bobbi Wilson, a nature-loving child who regularly hunted lanternflies to protect trees in her neighborhood continues to highlight America’s problematic and dangerous use of racial profiling against Black men, women, and children.
When I first read the story, I thought about my children at that age. How curious and innocent they were. How the last thing on their minds would be the police questioning them. That’s not the world we live in, is it?
Bobbi Wilson was spraying trees with a homemade mixture to quell the infestation of lanternflies. Former councilman and of course Republican, Gordon Lawshe called 911. "There's a little Black woman, walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees… I don't know what the hell she's doing, scares me though."
Did I mention, the child and her family live across the street from this man? Gordon Lawshe said he was afraid of a 9-year-old girl under five feet tall. Not only did he put her life in danger, she will be scarred for life, and her innocence has been stripped. Her parents now have the task of repairing the damage done by racism.
If you’re asking yourself what was racist about calling 911 stay tuned. He used a racist trope by calling her a woman. Black children are viewed as older, and less innocent than white children. Do you think the police would have been called on a little white girl spraying trees?
He also racially profiled her. Racially profiling is the discriminatory practice of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on race, ethnicity, and religion. People of color are repeatedly racially profiled and confronted by police. Oftentimes these confrontations end in the death of a person of color. Think of what happened to Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.
Now Bobbi Wilson has to get “the talk” that all Black parents have to give. It’s what Mamie Till gave Emmett before he traveled down south.
Mamie instructed Emmett to say "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" when talking to white folk. She told him if a white woman was walking towards him to step off the sidewalk and lower his head. To be "small."
“The talk” is generational, passed down like an heirloom. It’s supposed to prepare children of color for the intricacies of living in a society with racism. It’s an unimaginable talk Black people must have with their children. To all the non-Black readers, humor me, imagine telling your children to be submissive when dealing with police so that they aren’t deemed threatening or telling them not to wear certain clothes with the hopes they aren’t profiled. Imagine telling your driving-age children to keep their license and registration on the seat and not the glovebox or if a cop pulls up, to put your hands out the window. The fact is, neither the tone of your voice nor the clothes you wear will change skin color, and as long as we are afraid and uncomfortable to have discussions about racism the problem will persist.