On expecting Certain people to be guilty

My brother owns a theater company. He sends out pairs of actors all over the country to perform in plays based on literature and historical events. They wear uniforms with the company logo. They drive the company vans which are registered to his company in NC. They carry around company Rubbermaid bins, you know the type, but in this case they are not filled with your old high school year books and winter clothes but props and costumes, wigs and puppets. These folks are actors, some with years of experience, some right out of college. Acting is a tough career, like a lot of artistic endeavors. His actors come from Broadway sometimes and they go to Broadway sometimes. You work gig to gig. You do it because you love acting. He pays well above what his competitors pay their actors and it is in fact a living wage. He’s a good, ethical man, my brother.

trTwo nights ago, he got a call. His actors were traveling through a town in NC when they got pulled over by the cops. Broken taillight, they said. (The next day a mechanic assured them the taillights were a-okay). They were questioned. When the cops said “it didn’t add up” (theater people traveling through their small county on their way to do theater stuff), they called for back up. More cops came. These are theater majors. The cops were looking for something to nail them on. They searched through smelly wigs (sorry, bro), costumes, sets, ancient hats, vests and frilly dresses. They wondered aloud where the drugs were. You know how on a long ride as the passenger, you like to kick off your shoes? Well, so do some actors apparently. Its a pretty normal thing to do. That means that when you are told to get out of the vehicle by a cop and its night time and you are Black, you cannot put your shoes on because it feels like you are going to get shot. This actress was thus barefoot, hands against the vehicle alongside her male colleague while three cops dug around their sweaty costumes trying to piece together the big mystery of how there are a.)actors b.)in a van c.)traveling through their town. Of course, there was nothing. These are professional actors. They had places to go and things to do. They were probably ready to hit the sack at that night’s hotel, call their friends back home and call it a night.  Clues such as their uniforms or pay stubs or the paperwork regarding that day’s shows and tomorrow’s shows were inadmissible evidence at that point.  They wanted to call the (White) owner of the company which employed them but he was an inadmissible witness.

The actors were shaken up by the time they called my brother and they were back on the road with their nothing-wrong-with-it taillight.  He was shaken too. The shows they are touring with right now are about the Civil Rights movement. The next day they hit the road again and performed the shows again. The show must go on, as they say.  My brother has said he’s going to do something about this.

Do you expect Black people to be guilty? I have anecdotal evidence of having been in situations, one with White associates and one with Black associates and I can tell you first hand that people look at the Black people and just expect that they are up to something or that they are guilty.  Why do they/you/we/I do that?


What does this have to do with St. Francis?

St. Francis stepped across the lines that divided people (haves from the have nots, Christians from the Muslims) and just sat down to eat with people, to have conversations with people. If you are reading this and you are White, answer me this: do you believe in integration? If so, when was the last time *you* integrated someplace?

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