Less than a year after 11 women (ten Black and one White) from the book club Sistahs on the Reading Edge were kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train for apparently ‘laughing and enjoying life while Black’, the ladies recently settled in a discrimination lawsuit against the company for an undisclosed amount. As expressed by the members of the group, the experience was humiliating and quite unnecessary. We’ve all experienced it though. That time when you’re out in public with your girls just having a good time like everyone else and someone of a different complexion gets offended in an obviously race-biased way. The next thing you know, you’re being asked to quiet down or leave, or worse, you get arrested. How do you respond? And what do you do when the police get involved?
Every situation is different and may call for different responses, but here are some things to keep in mind if confronted.
Appoint a Leader
Things get less confusing and intimidating if there is one person to speak and represent the group when engaging anyone else involved, including law enforcement. (Try not to engage with the aggressor. You will never convince them they are wrong.) This representative should be the calmest, least likely person to get hot-headed or aggressive. Everyone else should keep quiet.
It doesn’t do anyone any good to escalate the situation by getting emotional. Be aware of your tone, choice of words, and body language. There is already a misconception out there that all Black women have a bad attitude. Proving them right will only be used against you.
Try to Comply
If the group is being asked something reasonable, like lowering the volume, try to meet that request in an effort to keep the peace. If you feel it’s appropriate, let them know you will honor their request, but feel its unfair for whatever reason. Never mention that anyone is being racist, that will only make matters worse.
From the time trouble begins keep track of everything that happens – names, order of events, and things said. That way if there is any legal action later on, it may help your case. Also get together with any witnesses willing to give their account as well. Record what you remember right away using your phone’s recorder, or write it down.
Know Your Rights
If the police get involved and you find yourself on the wrong side of justice, its important to keep in mind that they are legally allowed to trick you into self-incrimination even if you’ve done nothing wrong, so you must know what they can and cannot do. The three amendments that protect your rights when engaging with the police are the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, which includes the right to remain silent. For more information check out FlexYourRights.org.
Written by Leslie Matthews, Contributing Writer, #mygirlsquad