Posted on November 2, 2007

Driven to Profile Young Black Males

Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 2, 2007

I am a black woman who was raised by a black man, married a black man, and gave birth to a black son.

I love black men. I am sustained by them. I know first-hand how loving they can be.

Which is why it breaks my heart to even think this, let alone write it: I’m starting to profile black men.

I know it’s harsh. Lord knows I don’t mean to sound like some of the angry readers who are so quick to profile by race, who write describing black men as nothing more than “animals,” “baboons” unfit to walk the streets. Our hearts will never be in the same place.

Still, these days in this city—336 homicides, mostly black men killed and doing the killing, and now a 25-year veteran police officer assassinated by another black man in a hoodie—it saddens me to know that if I were to encounter a young black man on the street in a hoodie, I would fear him.

I know I’m not the only one. If I were, 54 schools wouldn’t have been on lockdown during the manhunt in Philadelphia Wednesday. SWAT units wouldn’t be swarming. Stop-and-frisk wouldn’t be in full effect in West Oak Lane and all points north and south.

Urban Terrorism Runs Rampant.

Many killers are just kids who should be slinging backpacks in school, not packing heat in doughnut shops.


From all reports, Cassidy, only 54, was a good cop and loving family man who took pains to check on a West Oak Lane Dunkin’ Donuts because it had been robbed before. People cried over him. That’s how much they liked him.

Now he is dead, and his wife, son and two daughters are left to plan his funeral. Officer Cassidy’s death makes three cops shot this week, five this year. If it’s open season on the people who are supposed to protect us, how safe are we?

Not very. I don’t want to hear this nonsense about the police being the enemy in the ’hood. Let’s be real: It’s not the police who are senselessly gunning down black victims. It’s mostly black perpetrators.


Norma Burger, a 61-year-old retiree from Mount Airy who was picking up her great-grandson from day-care, said that for the first time she locked her car door when a young black man walked past.

“But my main thing is, I’m embarrassed for the black race,” said Burger, who is African American. “Every time you turn around, there’s a black man with a gun.” She looked at me incredulously: “Why do they have to rob? Why can’t they get jobs? They have no ambition. I worked 35 years at my job, now my job is working for me. . . . I’m just ashamed about what’s happening.”


“I’m not scared of black men, but I’m embarrassed, absolutely,” [Keisha LeCoeur, a 28-year-old African American] said. “For all of this violence to be attributed to African American men . . . it just gives cause for other people to say, ‘This is why we stereotype.’ ”


African Americans once prided themselves on their dignity even in the face of discrimination and hatred. Most of us still do.

It’s the reason 10,000 African American men have committed to take a stand against violence. Vowed to protect their women and children. That notion doesn’t frighten me. It reassures me.

Still, I wonder. On the way back from West Oak Lane, I stopped to watch the kids play at Joseph Pennell Academics Plus School. Seeing young black boys, innocent grade-schoolers, jockeying with each other, playing ball, talking and laughing with girls during recess, I couldn’t help but be afraid—that one day these children might end up with a gun in their hands or be a victim themselves.