Molly Pennington is a white woman married to a black man who’s often profiled and harassed. Irrational fear of black men has to stop.
Hey white women. I am talking to you. Because I am one of you. It’s time to check your imaginary fear that black men are out to get you
He was standing at the counter giving a business pitch to guys you work with. He works with local police departments to secure sponsors for safety assemblies at elementary schools. That’s what he was talking about. That’s why he was there.
My husband won’t tell me the name of your establishment. Just that it’s a Mom n’ Pops. He won’t tell me because I threatened to call you. I said I was going to drive over. With our kids. March them up to that same counter and demand to see you. Look you in the eye. All I know is that you’re blonde. White. Late thirties. And you live in a small Ohio town. I can picture you.
My husband is in his late forties. I’ve never met a more likable guy. He was wearing slacks and a button-down shirt. He’s tall. Clean cut. Charismatic. He puts other people at ease.
And he’s black.
- Is that all you saw when you walked over, looked at him for a few seconds as he smiled and said “Hello?”
- Is his dark skin the reason you walked to the back office and dialed 911?
- Is that why you claimed a man was out front “impersonating” someone who worked with police?
Within five minutes my husband was surrounded by a dozen cops. He counted. They were stern. Demanding. And he was afraid. Confused. Why would they be there for him?
He had the paperwork to prove his affiliation. On the letterhead from their own police department. But they didn’t take him at his word.
Hey white lady: Have you ever been surrounded by cops? Questioned? Harassed? For doing your job?
It took several minutes to sort it all out. They called in to their own department and a secretary set the record straight. Yes, that was the man with the safety program for kids. She explained what should have been obvious: this black man was not, in fact, pretending to represent the police, pretending to be putting together assemblies that teach children how to avoid danger in order to . . . what would be the point of this crime exactly?
My husband met your eyes as you peeked out from the back office. He knew you made the call.
Did you know that he was shaken for days? That’s the way it always feels. When he’s profiled. Detained. Questioned. Degraded. He’s used to it.
Let me tell you about this man.
He nurtures me. Supports me. Completes me—in every corny, romantic way. Did you know that I was struck with an illness two years ago, and since then he’s been our family’s sole breadwinner? At times, he’s worked 2 and 3 jobs to support us.
I have a son from my first marriage, to a white man, an abusive man—a man who looks “upstanding.” You wouldn’t call the cops on him. But he skipped out on child support, harassed me, doesn’t contribute to his son’s college education.
Guess who is paying for it? That black guy you called the cops on.
He’s also the guy who adopted a child with me a few years ago. A little girl who was in the foster care system. Because he wanted to make a difference in a kid’s life. Because he knew that he could. He’s that confident. He loves being a dad. He’s devoted. Strong. An amazing role model.
- Did you know he takes our 8 year old son to every ball practice and game? Teaches him love, respect, fairness?
- Did you know that he does all the cooking because he’s good at it?
- Did you know that he helps me keep the faith when I lose mine?
- Did you know that he’s never made me cry?
I fell in love with him for good once I saw how he worked with kids. He was a high school coach. This is not a job that people take for the money. They do it to support young people.
And guess what? I did not marry the only honest, amazing black guy in America. My husband would want you to know that he’s not special. He doesn’t consider himself atypical. The fact is that most black men are good men.
I’ve worked with black men, dated them, seen them on the streets, gone to school with them, taught them when I was professor, known them, hung out with them. Have you? Not one of these men has ever, I mean ever, behaved in a scary, misogynistic, violent or inappropriate way. Not a single time.
Are you aware of the history that you’re perpetuating? That baseless stereotype that you’ve bought into? This idea that black men are scary? That they are criminals? Do you know how many black men have been tortured and lynched because of the accusations of white women?
You could have gotten killed the love of my life, the perfect father to my children and the most moral, funny and kind man that I’ve ever known.
Because we both know that all he would have had to do is reach for his cell phone the wrong way and those cops might’ve opened fire.
Hey white women! I am talking to you here. Because I am one of you. I know you. It’s time to check yourselves and your imaginary fear that black men are out to get you. They are not the enemy. Stop being scared. Stop being ignorant, hateful and racist. My husband won’t tell me who you are, lady. He’s nice enough to protect you. To forgive you.
But I don’t. Shame on you, white lady. Because your racist ignorance shames us all.
Photo Credit: Getty Images