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Some of My Best Friends: A White Woman’s Journey into Racial Profiling

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Some of My Best Friends: A White Woman’s Journey into Racial Profiling


AALBC.com is one of the few entities that regularly publishes reviews of self published books.  A service which is increasingly in short supply but one that I'm glad to provide -- even though it is not exactly the most profitable service.


I do draw a line for books without an ISBN.  I just don't review them.  Indeed I don't even consider them "real" books.  There are a number of other reason I steer clear of these books, but I don;t want to start another rank :-)


However, there are exceptions to every rule.  Jane Chritchlow's book of photographs is one such exception.


I consider this book a deceptively compelling take on racial profiling and worth checking out.   Michel Martin recently  interviewed her for NPR.  Check out the book and let me know what you think.



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Without reading the book I can make some observations because one thing I learned  from some young black men that I have encountered and observed,  is that their "Big Mommas/ Grandmas/Mother-dears" hold a special place in their hearts.  Usually because these women have raised or at least helped to raise them. So they can relate to a kindly white haired old women in a certain setting. I remember hearing about a case where an elderly victim of a home invasion reported that she was spared being raped by one of the young intruders when his companion objected to his molesting someone who could be his grandmother. 


It wasn't too long ago when I was more spry, that my kids used to chide me for going around to barbeque joints and shrimp houses and chicken shacks to pick up carryouts because these neighborhood places were frequented by loitering young  homeboys. But their fears proved groundless because these dudes were always polite to me, opening doors, occasionally allowing me to go ahead of them in line, making small talk, saying "yes maam" and "no maam".  Smiling and making eye-contact with them seem to turn them into shy guys  happy to have pleased or accomodated a harmless old lady who did not look drastically different from Jane Chritchlow.   I have no doubt that if I'd asked one of them to pose for a picture with me they would've agreed, throwing an arm around my shoulder, tilting their head toward mine. 


One of my own grandsons is a homeboy type, an outside child of my son,  he is the kid who hangs up under me the most.  While the others are busy achieving, he's working part time at White Castle but, like a lot of his buddies, he loves his gran-momma and Lil Wayne, loves to pick my brain and run errands for me when he's broke so he can earn money for loosies (cigarettes sold 2-for-a-dollar under the counter since in Cook County Illinois, the price of a pack of cigrettes is almost 10 dollars!) So far he's managed to resist the gangs.  I can only hope.


That's the tragic thing about so many of the younger generation of young black males is that there are 2 sides to them.  They are just as capable of being kind as they are of being killers.  You see their mug shots in the papers after being arrested for drive-bys, hear their families describe them as good kids, marvel at how young and innocent they look.  But somewhere along the way they have lost their footing and the streets have won the battle for their souls... Yet another curse visited upon black America, who can't seem to win for losing. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

You know......

Every time I see or hear stories about White people who "dare" to go into predominately Black neighborhoods and take up residence or perform a service for the community.....I have to laugh to myself, and often times LOL.

Tom Brokaw of NBC Nightly news was good for that.....
He'd often top off his news report with some half-ass manufactured story a White guy from the suburbs who out of the kindness of his own heart would dare to venture down to his local ghetto to feed little Black children or paint over some graffiti and "make a difference".

After that 3 minute bit of racist propaganda he'd shuffle his papers with a smile and that NBC music would begin announcing the end of the broadcast.


As Dolemite would say: I wanna ask yall just one thang........

What's so brave about an old White woman or a White woman of ANY age going around the hood talking with and taking pictures with Black men?

What the hell do THEY have to fear?
White women aren't the ones being shot up and killed by Black men.

If ME and TROY went around the hood trying to give young Black men we don't know "bro hugs" and asking them to take pictures with us....lol.

Now that's courage.

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Why can't Jane Chritchlow simply be regarded as someone confronting her own personal fears in order to practice what she preached as a "well-meaning liberal".  If you think a white woman walking the streets of the inner city with a camera is not taking risks, you need to think again. 

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Where is the documented evidence of White women walking around Black neighborhoods with cameras being assaulted?

In other words, what is  the threat?

In order to confront your "fears" their must be a viable threat in the first place.

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Where is the documented evidence that you and Troy would be attacked if you asked young brothers to pose for pictures with you?  It's an assumption you make. 


Confronting a fear doesn't have to have anything to do with it  being as viable threat.  It can be about an irrational misconception. 

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Actually when I moved back to Harlem about 13 years ago I thought about doing something similar, basically taking photos of groups of Black men just hanging out. 


If you can look past the cat calling of women passing by, the public consumption of alcohol and marijuana, the lack of shirts and sagging pants, the blasting music, littering, and over all dysfunction, there is something compelling about the camaraderie and the visuals.  I knew these scenes would not last much longer due to gentrification, so I was interested in capturing and preserving them.


I never did it though, figuring that some Brothers would not want to be photographed, and if something crazy happened because of something I captured on film I did want to be responsible. 

The idea really came from a coffee table book, that came out years ago, of photos of East Harlem taken when I was a kid.  During that time East Harlem was the poorest place in the country (I learned this reading a story in National Geographic an issue I kept over 40 years).  Relatively speaking we were quite fortunate to live in the projects.  I actually purchased this book, probably the most expensive book I ever brought, which I could not afford really afford at the time, because it felt like a time capsule to my past.


The way some people lived was actually quite horrific.  I knew a girl whose baby sister was attacked and bitten by a rat in her own living room -- can you image!.  So when Gil Scott Heron (who lived in East Harlem) sang about his "sister Nell," it was not hyperbole.


At any rate, I thought something similar should have been done for Harlem.  It is probably too late now.



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Pioneer I thought you might get a kick out f the comment on the review of Jane's book:


"She's 'humanizing' creatures descended directly from Homo Erectus that aren't even within the same taxonomy as modern humanoids. She probably won't get it, even with a broken orbital bone and the usual ape-rape, just another idiotic female with warped or attenuated survival instincts that will end up in pieces in a dumpster somewhere.
Curious George and Jane GOODALL, lol."


I know whoever posted this is a racist cretin, but it did make me laugh when I first read it. :o It is just so absurd.

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I'm almost finished reading "Miss Anne In Harlem", and had Jane Critchlow  been around during the Harlem Renassiance, she would've fit right in with the white women who fell under this Miss Anne category.  I will be posting a mini review of this book which offers as lot of insight into the ongoing role white women play in America's racial paradigm. 

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The scenario you just described as to why you thought it would be a BETTER idea not to go around the hood with a camera is the very reason why I think it's a bigger act of courage for US than for any White woman.

Ofcourse some White people are victims in Black neighborhoods like some Black people are victims when they go into White neighborhoods, but for the most part people tend to commit crimes within their own race.

But this also points out how naive and trusting so many of our people are....


Why would you let some strange woman who obviously isn't from your community take your picture and ask you a bunch of questions in the first place?

This unconditional "trust" of White people I see so much among our young people is a reason so many end up in so much trouble.  It seems that centuries of slavery and being tricked and fool still hasn't taught some Black folks not to be so trusting of every White person who smiles at them.

How long would a Black man with a camera going from door to door asking White women questions and asking them to pose in pictures with him last?


He won't make it half way down the block before little kids on tricycles start looking at him funny and the dogs start barking....lol.


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