Walking and Driving while Black—Differences within America and between America and Jamaica

Here are two tales of police encounters, both by black men in America.

One is by Esau McCaulley, my former colleague who taught New Testament at Northeastern Seminary (now at Wheaton College). The other is by Garnette Cadogan, a writer friend who moved from Jamaica to the USA some years ago.

Driving while Black

In “Driving while Black,” Esau describes his experiences with the police as a black man driving in Alabama, his home state. He then contrasts this with his later (quite different) experiences in New England.

Esau’s piece was published in July 2016 on an Anglican website called Covenant.

Walking while Black

In “Walking while Black,” Garnette describes his love of walking, which began on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, when he was a schoolboy. He then describes his very different experience walking the streets of New Orleans, and later New York.

Garnette’s piece was originally published in October 2015 in the inaugural issue of Freeman’s (an anthology of writings collected by John Freeman); the theme of this issue was Arrival. The piece was re-published in July 2016 on the website of Literary Hub.and also in The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race (Scribner, 2016), ed. Jesmyn Ward.

Each of these is well worth reading.

You can access them on the web—Esau’s here, Garnette’s here.

Or you can download them as PDFs—Esau’s here, Garnette’s here.

I’d be interested in your thoughts; and I’m sure the authors would be too.

You can hear a PRI interview with Garnette Cadogan about his walking experiences here.

And you can watch his TEDx talk on walking here.

5 thoughts on “Walking and Driving while Black—Differences within America and between America and Jamaica

  1. All I can say right now is Kyrie Eleison. I am a walker. I frequently walk to work. Weekend walks are our treasured family activity. I walked across Spain. I know and love the freedom of wandering feet and wandering mind. Kyrie Eleison.

  2. You’ve hit on a topic close to my heart, despite the fact that I’m a middle-aged white man. I spent a decade teaching English at Dallas County juvenile detention, so Esau’s experiences as a teenager in Alabama are familiar stories to me. The only difference between him and the kids in juvenile detention is that Esau was smart enough (or lucky enough) not to have alcohol or drugs in the car when his turn came to be stopped for Driving While Black.

    I can’t tell you how many kids are sucked into the system just for that reason. In a “pod” of 12 students, I typically would have 6 Hispanics, 5 blacks, and 1 white. I can assure you that this does not represent the demographics of Dallas County, which is 2/3 white. And the problem is, once a kid is sucked into the system and put on probation, he is almost doomed to fail. Very few teenagers have the self-discipline to successfully complete probation. Almost all of them wind up incarcerated multiple times before they turn 18, setting them up for long-term failure. The system is broken, and only people of good will can fix it. The prophets condemned Israel’s kings over and over for their failure to administer true justice. If anything from the OT theocracy can be applied to a democratic system of government, that is it.

    Garnette’s article on walking while black was outstanding, as well. I remember an evangelism organization that would host a three-day “revival” at juvenile detention every year. A lot of elderly white folks would show up to witness to the kids and pray for their souls, but a week later those same people would cross to the other side of the walk if they encountered those very same kids on the street or in the mall. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

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