“My Best Friends are Black”

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.27.2009

When I read the link posted on my blog about Sergeant James Crowley, the arresting officer in the Gates affair, being a diversity trainer, it reminded me of how I used to respond years ago when Black parents would come up to meet me at Douglas Middle School on the west side of Chicago and ask me point blank if I were a racist.  I would immediately begin to go on and on about how I was on the peace and justice committee at my church, and how my best friend was Black, and the more I talked the more the parent would look at me skeptically with an expression that seemed to say, “Yeah, she’s like that!” 

Here’s the issue- Tom Kochman wrote a great chapter in Black and White styles in Conflict called \”Signs of Guilt and Innocence\”. He explained that when Whites feel wrongfully accused they protest and defend their innocence.  Blacks, on the other hand, avoid reacting strongly when wrongly accused – an African American will more likely say simply “I know you’re not talking to me”.  OMG! Think of the implications when white jurors are determining if an African American is guilty or innocence.  If an African American doesn’t protest sufficiently for Anglo cultural expectations, they will likely read the lack of protestation as a sign of guilt rather than innocence. Read more »

Obama, Gates and Crowley as Diversity Role Models

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.25.2009

The President said the police arrest of Gates after he showed an ID that he was the owner of the house was \”stupid.\” Blacks are sensitive to profiling and Whites are sensitive to feeling their moral character has been maligned. All things being equal in the sensitivity category, Whites have not been accidentally detained, tortured, or killed for feeling maligned, while Blacks have experienced all those things by virtue of being profiled. Maybe you\’re familiar with the rap lyric: \”Murder was the case that they gave me\”. We all know about DNA proving innocence of men on death row who were wrongfully charged. All the same, I understand how both parties felt they were disrespected.

I have yet to meet a Black man who wasn\’t the victim of a wrongful stop — one in which no violation had been committed. I heard a white talk show caller say he too is often stopped because he had long hair. I thought, \”You chose long hair, people don\’t choose their race or ethnicity. And some day you\’ll probably cut your hair, or get a hat\”. On the other hand, race is always with you even if you\’re a famous Harvard professor.

When my son Bill was 13 he and a few white friends went to the movie one evening. I told them I would pick them up at the gas station across from the theatre. They were standing outside, laughing, talking loudly as 13 year old boys do, when a squad car pulled into the gas station. I pulled in behind the police car, and the kids jumped in the car, saying they were glad to see me because they thought maybe the store owner called the police because maybe he thought they were \”loitering\”. I asked the boys, \”How do you think you would have felt if you were Black and the squad car pulled into the station?\” They all stopped and thought about it. it was a special moment when they could imagine how being Black would have made it so much scarier. Read more »