SWB: (Sitting while black)

Apr 23, 2018

I’m sitting at one of my favorite cafes, waiting for a friend to show up. I notice two of Cuenca’s finest arrive and walk toward my table.

Policeman: “Stand up please.”

Me: “Is there a problem officer?”

Policeman: “You’re under arrest for trespassing.”

I’m then handcuffed, searched for weapons, and taken to the local police station where I must pay to be released from jail.

As I walk past patrons sitting at their tables, no one looks in my direction.  I’m embarrassed, bewildered, and frustrated.

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I’m also SWB or Sitting While Black.

This is a fictitious event that never happened in Cuenca, but it actually did happen recently to two African American men for simply sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks. The men were waiting for an acquaintance, a white businessman, before making a purchase. Apparently, it was assumed that they were up to no good, so police were summoned.  The two men explained that they were waiting for a business associate but the reason for their presence in a Starbucks rang hollow.

Sitting at the cafe.

Fortunately for them, the only damage was to their pride. It could have gone so terribly worse had they questioned the actions of the policemen or looked in any way that gave police an indication they were threatened. Guns could have easily been raised, or even fired, and then we would have two dead African American men over coffee!

All over America, African Americans know the terms:

DWB: Driving While Black
WWB: Walking While Black
SWB: Sitting While Black
LWB: Living While Black

I’m sure there are logical explanations why these African American men were legally arrested. The justification will seem so very plausible that some will get that warm, comfortable feeling that comes over them when security and order is maintained.

Me?

Well, it’s one of the reasons why I don’t live in America anymore. I left the States in 2013, and not once has a police officer from Sweden, Croatia or Ecuador asked me for:

  • Identification
  • What is the reason I’m in a certain neighborhood?
  • What am I doing in a place of business?

In these countries, I’m just another human being.

Long ago in America, when African slaves began to offer resistance to slavery by revolting, it was decided that whites needed protection. This protection became the birth of law enforcement in American states. Slaves were not allowed off plantations after curfew. Slaves were not to leave the plantation without written authorization. It was the civic duty and responsibility of white citizens to report any slave perceived offense.

The real problem in America is that far too many whites go along with this standard operating procedure by local law enforcement as if it were some kind of civic duty to appreciate actions which constitute racial profiling.

Would you be comfortable being interrogated just for being white?

Would you be comfortable having the assumption that because you’re white, you must be a criminal?

Would you be comfortable having a policeman pull out his/her revolver and point it at you because you’re white?

Would you be comfortable being shot by police because they felt threatened for their life simply because you’re white?

There are unwritten rules in America. Most African Americans know these rules because they’re constantly drilled into our collective consciousness.

Most white Americans aren’t aware of them because they don’t apply to them. These rules only apply to 13% of the population.

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