Letters to the Editor: May 3 – 9, 2018
Danger in Criminalizing Groups in a Community
Isn’t it time?
Recently, a manager at a local Falls Church City coffee shop where children gather after school accused three high school boys of damaging property and spilling coffee. They denied the accusations. She told them that she had called the police and that they were banned from the establishment. The students – two of whom are boys of color – panicked and, perhaps foolishly, left the restaurant and ran away. The policeman caught up with them and called their parents to explain that the boys were not in trouble, but that the police could not intervene if the establishment wanted to ban the boys.
No parent wants to get a call from the police. These boys – particularly those of color – were lucky that the officer was professional and thoughtful. Falls Church has a fair and competent police force.
We cannot say the same for the establishment. Corporate management responded slowly. The local manager, an African-American woman, eventually called the parents. She explained that it is not store policy to call the police and she had never called the police on children before. She said another group of “kids” had broken a door but because she knew the parents, she thought they would discipline their children. She claimed she did not know what else to do. When asked about the “ban,” she mentioned a surveillance camera, and that should the boys return to the popular after school location, they could be arrested.
In the wake of racist incidents, from Starbucks in Philadelphia to this local gathering spot, we are struck by the thoughtlessness and danger of criminalizing select groups in the community that a business serves — and profits from. Must parents worry about the safety of their children at a community hangout? Or should they assume that their children — as in other, more explicitly hostile communities — will be criminalized?
Together, we can build a community in which all our members are respected and, in these divisive times, are kept safe. Tinner Hill is ready to become part of the solution. Are you ready to join with us?
It is time.
President, For the Board of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation
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