“Walking While Black” and Some Teaching Resources for Addressing Racism

The Nation Photographer- https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/price-transgression/

Dr. David J. Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

When I walked to my car after working all day at Subway in my local mall, I was tired from being on my feet all day and dealing with customers. My car was in the parking garage, only a five minute walk from the Subway in the food court. As I approached my car I was all of a sudden surrounded by police officers and soon apprehended and taken to the security office in the mall. I am not sure if my rights were even read to me. After I collected my thoughts and sifted through the yelling and accusations. I figured out that they thought I was breaking into someone’s car when I had gone to get something out of my car earlier. A white woman had seen me (A black young man) in the parking lot going to my car and assumed I was breaking in. She had done her “duty” as an American citizen and promptly called the police. I remember all I could think of was that my mom is going to be worried sick because I was supposed to be home by 6pm. This is a true story that happened to me (The author) and typical of many experiences I have had throughout my life, living as a black man. The most recent being just a few months ago. But thankfully I have not been outside much because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, so I have had somewhat of a break from personal racist encounters.   

There are many other black youth throughout the United States that have experiences like mine everyday. The topic of racism is often swept under the rug, but incidents like the George Floyd slaying have brought it to the forefront. Admittedly, the topic of racial discrimination is one that is uncomfortable and difficult to address with students. But one’s level of comfort with a topic is not an excuse to ignore it. Furthermore, the glaring examples of racism playing out in the media now make it difficult to ignore. I have included some resources from PBS and an article about Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” film to help teachers address racism with their students. I have also included my most recent lecture on the history of violence against African Americans prepared for teachers, students and the general public.

PBS Teaching Resources- Confronting Anti-Black Racism
Spike Lee Shares Short Film Mixing ‘Do the Right Thing’ With Footage of George Floyd, Eric Garner

A Lecture- We Can’t Breathe: A History of Violence Against African Americans


  1. Reading through this article, I saw that you mentioned Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” film. I thought I would mention that I’m not an African American nor a Caucasian. I am Korean and in the film *spoiler*, there is a specific scene where the African Americans were going to destroy the Korean’s store, but he shouted “I am you! I am black! We same.” The groups both realized that they are oppressed by the same oppressor and chose to stand with each other. All People of Color are oppressed, but African Americans are being targeted. During this time, POC are standing with African Americans.

  2. Living in an America that still racially profiles and punishes members of its society for the color of their skin is absolutely sickening. Being a white person, I never have to think about the possibility of being questioned, arrested, or summoned, just for the color of my skin. It’s so ridiculous for a person to be seen as a threat because they are different from the “majority.” I can slightly empathize because I am a gay male and honestly from my experience, people don’t understand what it means to be gay in a homophobic America, let alone to be judged because of the color of their skin. As a nurse, the disparities for black coworkers and patients are great and it is just as important for our healthcare system to be educated on racism as it is for teachers and their students. As we move forward in addressing systemic racism and oppression in our society, I pray that true change happens sooner rather than later.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. This story is a really clear example of how prejudice can warp people’s perception of what is happening around them. It must have been so scary to have been jumped on and nearly arrested out of nowhere, when you’d done nothing wrong. Examples of instances of racist actions like this are things people of color have to go through all the time, but white people would never even come close to experiencing. Thinking what it must be like to get taken in by security for something as simple as going to your car is so strange, I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  4. As a white women I will never fully understand how it feels to live as a black person. However, Ive learned to listen to my fellow African American friends and family. I learned so much from just listening! We cannot ignore these issues any longer, there has to be changes not just in the George Floyd’s case but for the whole black community. America isn’t great and will never be great if it isn’t great for ALL OF US. I’m currently raising white children, and have been shamed by other mothers for explaining to my children their white privileges. I have to. they have to understand and can have empathy for their friends who are white. We have to continue to have this conversation with our kids.

  5. The walking while black article cuts deep. It blows my mind how while doing the most simple everyday thing as not just an African American, but any minority, can seem so cruel, unjust and judgemental. In my future working with elementary children, I will find a proper way to educate and bring light to this subject. There should never be a reason someone feels scared or like their being judged by simply grabbing something from THEIR OWN car.

  6. It’s the unfortunate truth that stories like yours exist. While I will never know what it is like to be discriminated by the color of my skin, I wish for a world where stories like this will cease to be. That world is impossible. Because even if racism is obliterated, it would be a crime to forget. Forgetting these stories is the same as pretending they never existed in the first place. It is our duty to learn about these stories in order to prevent racial discrimination. Thanks for the resources.

  7. I read on Facebook a useful example of the racism African Americans have to endure. Ernest Skelton is an educated, black man who owns an appliance repair business. He shared his experiences with one of his clients and she posted it on Facebook. It has gone viral. Despite the fact that he has a college degree he has had experienced numerous people throughout his life call him “boy”. Despite the fact that he drives a work truck with labelling on the side he has been pulled over and asked to explain himself. He no longer goes out at night due to the harassment. Hopefully, stories like his and Dr Childs will cause everyone to take a hard look at today’s society.

  8. This situation is just sad a young black man is simply walking to his car and get stopped by the police. Police officers target African Americans because they feel as if we are more likely to commit crimes. I have always been baffled by the fact that that color of our skin incriminates us. I wonder if the young man was white would he have been stopped? Probably not because they are not seen as dangerous to society which is wrong because no matter the race anyone can commit a crime.

  9. I will never know what it feels like to be targeted like the author was in this article. And there are too many stories like this that have been swept under the rug, until now. I believe the change that we need is the change that we are on the brink of. The argument that race shouldn’t matter is what keeps us from talking about it. It shouldn’t take an act of brutality for you to suddenly show your support. It is not enough to hate racism, you need to be apart of working towards anti-racism. I think that a lot of people are having to come to terms with their own privilege and it’s difficult, but necessary.

  10. This is an interesting article, because it brings up the questions, “What if the “walker” was white?” “What if the “caller” was black?”, “Would the same interrogation have happened?” As a person who doesn’t consider herself racist, I would like to say, Yes, it would be the same outcome, which would be that a young, white man would have been questioned for walking to a car to retrieve something. But something tells me that this would not have the same outcome.

    Before Barack Obama was elected President, during one of his interviews, he stated that his grandmother was a typical white person who confessed “her fear of black men who passed her by on the street.” He said at the time that was not unusual for people in “her generation.”

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t just older generations. This continues. Just last month we heard on the news a case of a white woman calling police on a black man birdwatching in Central Park. This is a very timely article for what is happening currently.

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