In an eye-opening series of tweets, Tarana Burke shared a story highlighting the small choices black men have to make to avoid police attention. Burke, who pioneered the #MeToo movement, explained why her man didn’t want to borrow her pink tote bag.
“A few months ago my dude was looking for a tote bag to carry some things to the post office. I gave the biggest bag I had which happened to be bright pink and red. He saw the bag and immediately asked for another one. When I asked why he just insisted on a different color bag,” Burke tweeted.
A few months ago my dude was looking for a tote bag to carry some things to the post office. I gave the biggest bag I had which happened to be bright pink and red. He saw the bag and immediately asked for another one. When I asked why he just insisted on a different color bag.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) May 28, 2020
Burke was frustrated. She continued the thread by explaining, “His insistence annoyed me and I started in on him fussing about it being sexist…to reject a bag based on thinking it’s too effeminate!” An easy assumption to conclude at surface level. But then, “He let me fuss at him for a minute and then finally she said ‘Baby, please stop. That’s not it!’”
He eventually explained why he didn’t want the pink bag. “I’m a 6’3 Black man. If I’m walking down the street with a bright pink bag I could look like I stole it from a woman—which could attract police attention. I’m never trying to give these cops a reason to stop me. Ever.”
Burke is an activist who has worked with survivors of sexual violence, mainly young women of color. She founded the Me Too activist group twelve years prior to the famous #MeToo hashtag that was used more than 12 million times since 2016. She explains why she shared the stories of her partner by tweeting, “I know my fears as a Black woman moving through the world. Especially one who has been harassed and harmed by police. My deep sadness today is for Black men and all Black people who for whom this stress and anxiety never relents.”
With this story, Burke showed an example of the type of worries black men in America deal with that other men don’t. It begs a question to the white community: if your husband, son or father would walk down the street with a large, bright pink tote bag, would you worry about him? Or would you know most people would giggle at him, perhaps throw a joke at him or even admire his bold fashion choices?
This is not the only story Burke shared to highlight this issue. She also tweeted about an instance where she and her partner came back to his car to find it vandalized. His car was parked in a way that partially blocked the driveway. It seemed as if the owners of the house had vandalized the car because of the partial blockage. Burke explained she was getting angry and knocked on the door to talk to the owners, but they didn’t answer.
“A few minutes later [a] cop car rolls by and they stop and get out. I start to tell them what happened and they walk upon him and immediately start questioning him,” wrote Burke. “I interrupt and say ‘excuse me HIS car was vandalized!”
“The cops tell me to ‘be quiet’ and just as I’m about to turn all the way up on them he turns to me and says ‘Baby, please…’ firmly. Then he calmly answers the cops’ questions even though they are rude and invasive.”
The cops asked her partner question like “What are you doing here?” “Did you get into an altercation earlier tonight?” and “If I knock on these people’s door, what are they going to say?”
The cops eventually let them go, and her partner took Burke back home in silence.
“Later he calls and says ‘Please don’t do that again.’ I got it. I could hear the stress in his voice. I thought about both of these stories today. A lot. I know what it’s like worrying that my child, partner, brother or other loved ones will meet an Amy Cooper or worse… cops like George Floyd did.”