Racial Profiling on the Main Line

The Main Line has long been the picture of suburban utopia. But as many of its African-American residents are making clear, for them it’s no utopia at all.

Clockwise from top left: Keith Taylor; Muneera Walker; Anita Friday; Harry Mobley Jr. with his sons Aseda, Omosesan and Akinyele Adebamgbe; Loraine Carter; Schoolly D, Crystal Blunt with her son Michael. Photography by Colin Lenton

Clockwise from top left: Keith Taylor; Muneera Walker; Anita Friday; Harry Mobley Jr. with his sons Aseda, Omosesan and Akinyele Adebamgbe; Loraine Carter; Schoolly D, Crystal Blunt with her
son Michael. Photography by Colin Lenton

This past July, Jordan and Joshua Friday confronted one of those endless summer days that teenagers are given. They journeyed by bicycle to an aunt’s house to swim, met up with a friend, and stopped to get pizza. After lunch, the trio went looking for a fourth friend in the Greens of Waynesborough, a small housing development near their Berwyn home. Jordan and Joshua, 15-year-old African-American high-school students, were unfamiliar with this subdivision. They figured they’d reach the fourth kid on his cell phone or find his house. The identical twins, long and thin, both over six feet tall, were dressed in shorts and colorful t-shirts. They wore school backpacks slung over their shoulders, and bicycle helmets strapped tight to their heads. The twins — mom is a lawyer, dad is a doctor — pedaled slowly past wide lawns and big million-dollar houses, feeling right at home. But this development stretched several blocks from the main road.

The fourth boy didn’t answer his cell phone. The Fridays weren’t quite sure where he lived. And at some point, the white friend they’d come with pedaled ahead of them. He was almost a full block away when the Fridays noticed the SUV.

Its driver pulled up near them — a white lady in sunglasses. Her face bore a stern expression, and she held her cell phone, landscape-style, toward the windshield. The twins didn’t know what to think. Jordan Friday waved to her, to say hello. Then they ignored her and went on looking for the other boy. But the woman continued to track their every move. After a few minutes, Jordan wanted out. He pedaled away, hard, to catch up with the third kid. Joshua maintained his slow, rolling pace. But when the woman in the SUV stayed with him, he panicked. He pedaled faster, took every available turn, doubled back on his path. He didn’t know where he was going. He just wanted to lose her. But she stuck right behind him, still holding her cell phone up, presumably to record him. He decided on a new tactic.

“I just thought,” he recalls, several weeks later, “I’d pedal up to her window and ask, ‘Why are you following me?’”

He turned his bike around to face the SUV directly. He started forward, toward the driver’s-side door.

The woman dropped her phone on the seat, put both hands on the wheel, and drove off, her stern expression given over to fear.

Joshua looked around.

By now, he was lost. He didn’t see his brother, their friend, or the boy they’d been trying to find. He tried navigating away from dead ends. He looked for turns that led to the exit and the main road. The streets had been empty before. Now he noticed a lot of people outside. He pedaled past one group that gathered near the curb. A woman’s voice rang out shrilly, calling a man’s name.

“I thought she was calling for her husband,” says Joshua. “I was scared that I was going to be attacked.”

He rode harder now, catching sight of his brother near the subdivision exit, only to be joined when he got there by the police. The boys were stopped and briefly questioned. One of the cops recognized the twins as neighborhood residents and allowed them to go on their way. But the sweet summer day that had stretched out so beautifully beforehand, that had hours left to run, looked suddenly dangerous.

The Fridays rode home and told their mom, Anita, what had happened. She immediately went with them to the police station for more details. When they returned to their house, they stayed there, surrounded by 6,000 square feet of luxury and ghosts: Trayvon Martin, Rumain Brisbon, Walter Scott … the roll call of unarmed African-Americans shot to death by citizens or police. The Fridays understood the day’s events as a brush with those tragedies. And they had ghosts of their own, because being targeted wasn’t new to them. Being targeted was more of the same — the same problem that has afflicted their young lives, the City of Philadelphia, the Main Line, and all of America.

The Main Line is, statistically, one of the most affluent and highly educated regions in the country. It’s also overwhelmingly white and a bastion of privilege. And so when Anita Friday posted about the incident online and the post went viral, that was more of the same, too — the second Main Line racial incident to blow up this year.

SOME SIX MONTHS before the Fridays took their bike ride, on a January afternoon after a heavy snowfall, Deborah Saldana arrived at her Penn Wynne home and saw two black teenagers her father had hired shoveling her sidewalk. She walked inside, looked out moments later, and saw that the shoveling had stopped. A squad car was parked out front. Police were questioning the kids, and an officer told her they were “conducting an investigation.” She didn’t like the scene already, and liked it less when the police ordered the teens to sit in the snow. She thought the stop was wrong, an instance of racial profiling, and she snapped a picture from her window.

After maybe 20 minutes, the police left the kids to finish shoveling. Saldana took to the Lower Merion community page on Facebook. The post blew up into a thread more than 1,000 comments long. Local news outlets produced stories. Police subsequently released information about the incident: They said that the snow shovelers were men, 18 and 34 years old; asking them to sit, even in the snow, was just protocol. The police said the stop was legal — the enforcement of a local ordinance requiring any adult soliciting door-to-door to have a permit.

Deborah Saldana never returned phone calls asking her to be interviewed for this article. In earlier interviews, she expressed doubt about the police version of events. She described the snow shovelers as having “small, skinny builds” and smooth teenage faces. Lower Merion police superintendent Mike McGrath declined to release any paperwork to help confirm the ages.

The dispute matters. Only adults are subject to the solicitation ordinance. Local residents, skeptical as Saldana, posted fliers looking for the snow shovelers. No one came forward. Regardless, the incident struck a nerve: The image of two working African-American young men sitting in the snow while a white cop stands nearby distills the larger issue of racial profiling to its essence.

Of course, these incidents — the Fridays’ bike ride and Saldana’s shovelers — are minor in comparison to the police killings that usually spark racial debate. That might also be why they drew attention. Perhaps it’s easier to see what happened here because there is no bloodshed to distort the view, no police claiming they were attacked. These are just kids, definite ones and supposed ones, targeted by civilians and police though they’d clearly done nothing wrong.

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the Fridays moved from Sudbury, Massachusetts, to the Main Line, selecting the neighborhood mainly for its blue-ribbon public schools. They enrolled their sons at Tredyffrin/Easttown Middle School, where they learned lessons outside the core curriculum. Anita Friday only discovered how difficult a time her sons had in school after they were asked to write an essay on the topic of tolerance.

“It was a social-studies course,” remembers Joshua, “and we had just been studying Alabama [and the civil rights movement there]. We were supposed to write about whether or not we’d progressed and whether or not America is an accepting society.”

The Friday boys were in separate classrooms, navigating the same seventh-grade curriculum. They never discussed the assignment, yet both offered the same assessment. “My personal experiences as an African-American are extremely outrageous,” wrote Joshua Friday, “and kids think it’s just what I should be used to.”

“I myself am a victim of those intolerant people who say things because of my skin color,” wrote Jordan Friday. “They call me names, or whenever we read or talk about Africa they laugh and point at me. … The N word is commonly thrown around … even though there is literally nothing different about us except our skin color.”

The boys had found that their white classmates expected them to conform to every stereotype — to love rap music, say “yo,” be good at basketball and struggle with classwork. When Joshua made the basketball team, his white classmates shrugged. “Of course you did,” they told him. “You’re black.”

“I had almost no pride in the achievement,” Joshua wrote in his school essay.

An assigned book with an African protagonist, Of Beetles and Angels, marked them for more abuse — “Isn’t this you?” — right in the middle of class. Teachers silenced the white kids, but the Fridays say they never meted out discipline, never used the jokes as a teaching moment.

African-Americans represent roughly 2.6 percent of the Tredyffrin-Easttown school district, and the Fridays felt worse than alone there. They felt completely disregarded, as if their emotions and desires held no importance. Rough treatment influenced every decision they made. Jordan chose clothes and music in a self-conscious effort to avoid fitting any stereotypes. Once a week, in the cafeteria, the school served fried chicken. The Fridays ordered other items.

“I didn’t want to deal with the jokes and the comments I got,” says Joshua.

The image is surreal: Jordan and Joshua Friday sat surrounded by white boys stuffing their faces with fried chicken. But they abstained, to avoid being subjected to racist jokes.

After a few months, Joshua got tired of the double standard. He ate what he wanted, swallowing the remarks — “There’s Joshua, eating fried chicken” — and his anger with the meal. Jordan never did. The carelessness of the other boys remained consistent.

Just a few days before the Fridays turned in their essays, in fact, Joshua heard a bunch of kids laughing at a joke he’d missed. Innocently, he asked them to repeat it.

“You don’t want to know,” one of the boys told him.

Joshua considered the boy a friend. And he figured from this response that the joke must have been racist.

“Tell me,” he insisted.

“Why are black people afraid of chain saws?” the kid asked.


“Because,” the kid answered, revving up his voice, “they say runnn-niggerr-rrruuuunnnn!”

ONLINE, REACTIONS to the police stops of the Fridays and Saldana’s workers veered between outrage on behalf of minorities and race baiting. Official responses were purely supportive. Frank Allen, the rector at Anita Friday’s church, St. David’s Episcopal — the Fridays are the only African-American members — addressed the “heart-breaking” incident in his email newsletter and called upon church members to investigate their own hearts.

In Lower Merion, Brian Gordon, a township commissioner, called the Saldana event and its aftermath “revelatory.”

It was Gordon, a corporate attorney, who convened a packed community meeting at the PALM Senior Center to deal with the controversy. Citizens, mostly African-American, lined up to speak. “What got me were the stories,” remembers Gordon. “Person after person. And they were just so moving.”

The Main Line, in fact, provides too many stories to print.

We could talk about Kerry Godbold, an African-American and a veteran Lower Merion police officer. He passed the sergeant’s exam three years ago but has yet to be promoted in a department where all the supervisors, and roughly 93.5 percent of the officers, are white.

We could talk about Nick Lai. Lai, who’s Asian, recently sued the Radnor Township police, alleging that his fellow cops began harassing him after he called them out on what he saw as a pattern of racial profiling. (The township denies the allegations.)

We could talk about a 15-year-old incident that has left scars in Lower Merion and in the nation — the controversial, fatal police shooting of Erin Forbes, the son of a microbiologist and a Temple University African-American studies professor. Forbes was 26 and employed, and had no criminal record. Lower Merion police claimed Forbes behaved irrationally in January 2000, allegedly robbing a convenience store and advancing on the officer who shot him wielding a walking stick.

I could tell you about Muneera Walker, a 53-year-old African-American general contractor who was driving along winding, dangerous Mill Creek Road in Gladwyne when a car behind her raced up to her bumper. The car drew perilously close in her rearview mirror, dropped back, then surged forward again, as if urging Walker to hit the gas. She could see the driver, a young white woman around 20 years old, in her rearview mirror.

This was a balmy day last August. Both drivers had their windows rolled down, and as Walker maintained her speed, around 30 mph, she reached one hand out her driver’s-side window, urging the young woman to slow down.

The next thing she knew, the young woman leaned, head and shoulders, out her window, waving her cell phone in one hand and steering with the other. “Look at this!” she yelled. “I’m going to call the police. You know they’ll get you! Get your black ass back to Philadelphia where you belong!”

What hurt Walker most is that all her experience told her the woman was right. If the police came and questioned them both, they’d be more likely to believe the young woman. Walker’s own son had recently been ordered out of a local convenience store because, Walker told me, he “looked like some other black kid” who caused trouble there and the staff wasn’t interested in hearing him out.

“It spans the generations,” Walker says. “You look at how far we’ve progressed and you realize the further we get, the clearer it is that we really haven’t gotten anywhere. And as a parent, I know my children will face these things. Because I face them.”

We could talk about the schools. Lower Merion is an epicenter of racial tension, with two recent race-based lawsuits. In one case, Blunt v. Lower Merion School District, seven African-American students sued the district for failing to provide the free and appropriate public education to which every child is entitled. The alleged events are heartbreakingly repetitive: Though testing showed the complainants were generally of average intelligence and learning skills in subjects like math, reading and comprehension, they were misidentified as requiring special education.

Parents do have the right to demand that their children be “mainstreamed” and receive a regular curriculum. But according to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Carl Hittinger, some parents initially believed district experts who advised them that their children had learning disabilities. Others claim school officials told them their children were being put into “enrichment programs,” as if they were receiving a bonus.

When parents objected to the district’s treatment, teachers and administrators often confounded them. One woman, Aginah Carter-Shabazz, says requests that her grandchild be mainstreamed were simply ignored. Another parent said she received paperwork indicating that her child would enter middle school in the regular curriculum. Come the fall, it turned out Penn Wynne staff had forwarded an entirely different set of paperwork to the child’s new school. The girl was enrolled, despite her mother’s wishes, in a special-education program.

During court proceedings for the case, a school psychologist admitted that he’d lied to two parents by saying that the testing protocols — the scoring methods — for their child were “destroyed.” Under oath, he admitted the protocols were intact.

The impact of such attitudes and actions can be seen not only in Lower Merion, but also in nationwide education statistics. African-American children are 1.4 times as likely as white children to end up in special-education programs.

The Fridays have also been touched by this issue: While they were living in Stamford, Connecticut, school officials directed Anita Friday’s eldest son into a remedial class.

She didn’t believe the recommendation. She had his IQ tested. When he scored at the genius level, she saw the principal.

“Aren’t you a lawyer?” the principal asked.

“Yes,” replied Friday.

“Well, you’re one of the good ones,” she says the principal replied. “We’ll put him in regular classes.”

Of course, being described as “one of the good ones” wounds Friday as deeply as any offense. She is proud of her achievement but does not view herself as exceptional. There is a dominant image of the black citizen that simply doesn’t comport with reality. African-American women have dramatically narrowed the “achievement gap,” graduating from high school at rates near those of white and Asian counterparts. For Friday, though, the issue is that racial tension exists at all — either up or down the demographic scale.

“To some degree, I got to pass the white people’s test because I went to Georgetown and I am a lawyer,” she says, “but you have the real progress when blacks who haven’t had the opportunities I have are just as valued as I am.”

The bias here, toward putting African-Americans into special ed, is obvious and can be charitably described as one of low expectations.

“Largely white administrators and schoolteachers are prone to see African-Americans as less capable,” says Halford Fairchild, a social psychologist who has studied the subject extensively. “The schools are inclined to set them aside into special-education programs. We call this ‘warehousing’ them.”

In Lower Merion, around the time the special-ed suit was filed in 2007, African-American kids comprised seven percent of the school population and 15 percent of special-ed students. That alone set a strong foundation to move the suit past preliminary court proceedings. But Blunt v. LMSD never made it to a jury.

“We prevailed at every level,” says LMSD spokesman Douglas Young. “But we don’t crow about it, because we recognize that this is all so sensitive.”

Young points out that the Blunt suit originated eight years ago. The district’s honors and AP enrollment for African-Americans has doubled since then. African-American kids continue to be over-represented in special-ed courses, but the gap has narrowed slightly: The now eight percent African-American student body makes up 13 percent of the special-ed population. As Loraine Carter, former president of the advocacy group Concerned Black Parents, points out, these improvements suggest the kids were never the problem.

The district judge, Harvey Bartle III — white, a Bryn Mawr native — declared that the plaintiffs hadn’t provided sufficient evidence that their alleged mistreatment occurred because they were black. Even if all the factual allegations in Blunt were true, in other words — a point that was never determined — who’s to say they were the result of racial bias? In a 2-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concurred.

The victory for LMSD drew a particularly vigorous dissent from Theodore McKee, the presiding judge and the only African-American on the three-judge panel. McKee declared that Bartle and his colleagues on the appeals court had overturned decades of settled case law. They’d required plaintiffs to offer evidence of the defendants’ state of mind and generally demanded the level of evidence expected at a jury trial — not a civil case’s preliminary stage.

The rules of the game were set so the plaintiffs in Blunt v. LMSD could never expect to win. And indeed, they lost — in court and in school. Consigned to special-education courses, they learned below-grade-level material and often missed courses in history and foreign languages entirely, dimming their college prospects. And they paid another price — losing confidence in themselves, feeling diminished.

An independent evaluator, checking up on the school’s diagnosis of one plaintiff, wrote that the girl almost gave up on being tested: “I can’t,” she said. To someone told she wasn’t good enough, the assignment looked too difficult. But “with encouragement,” the evaluator wrote, “she completed it in half the time allotted.”

ON A SPRING DAY a few years back, barbecue chef Keith Taylor drove to a bank on the Main Line to cash a check. He was in a hurry, his check already out, pinched between his fingers, but a few steps inside the door, he sensed something was amiss.

The teller stood frozen, staring at him.

When he met her gaze, Taylor says, she moved only her eyes, between him and another man, presumably a manager. Confused, Taylor glanced over, but the manager, too, only returned his stare. Taylor meekly raised the check in his hand. No one moved to serve him. Then another man slipped into place beside the first, assuming the same strange staring behavior.

“What is going on?” thought Taylor. “Isn’t anyone going to take my check?”

Seconds passed. And there Taylor remained: a big black guy standing in a bank, being stared at by three white people who made no move to serve him. Race didn’t enter his thinking until the police arrived.

A squad car drove right up on the sidewalk outside the front door. Two cops emerged and rushed into the bank. Taylor barely saw their faces. He was fixated on the way the officers’ hands rested on their guns. The bank managers pointed at him, and all else is obscured by the numbness and anger he felt, the familiar nausea.

The police never told him why they were there. They checked his ID, questioned him, and left. Later, he found out that a bank had been robbed in the neighborhood that morning. The suspect was black.

This wasn’t the first time he’d been treated with suspicion, or the last. Taylor, who runs his own restaurant, Zachary’s BBQ, providing soul food to the Main Line, faced frequent police traffic stops. He got so tired of being pulled over on his drive home late at night that he got a customized license plate: “BBQ Chef.” He figured the police would recognize the car and let him go. (At times, he says, he was getting stopped once a month.) The gambit worked. The stops ended. But ongoing experience with racial bias doesn’t make it easier. “I went ahead and deposited my check,” he says of his visit to the bank, “and got the hell out of there. I was so disgusted.”

Like the Fridays’ bike ride, this stands as a “good” story. Taylor, a 51-year-old father of four, isn’t Eric Garner, the 43-year-old asthmatic, unarmed black father of six whose “I can’t breathe” pleas were ignored by the officers who wrestled him to the ground. He isn’t Rumain Brisbon, the unarmed black father of four who was shot to death when police mistook a bottle of pills in his hand for a gun. And because Taylor is alive, he can even laugh, recognizing the episode as a great setup for a comedy sketch: A black man walks into a bank, pulls out a check, and everyone freezes. …

This is, in many respects, the usual story we hear about racial bias — the racial profiling that leads to mistaken detentions, arrests, assaults and even deaths. These are the sorts of stories that dominated the Lower Merion public meetings, and that so moved township commissioner Brian Gordon.

There’s Harry Mobley Jr., who was stopped half a block from his house, with a tie on and a computer bag over his shoulder. The police rushed him, guns drawn, because an African-American — described as lighter-skinned and a foot shorter — had allegedly just robbed someone several blocks away.

“It’s true what they say,” Mobley observes now. “When someone is pointing a gun at you, all you can see is the barrel, it looks so big.”

A white neighbor intervened. Mobley went on his way. But minutes later, when he was just steps shy of his train station, another policeman stopped him again. The laptop bag over his shoulder, the tie, the foot in height and skin-tone difference — none of it seemed to matter. He was a black guy.

This focus on racial profiling among police, however, risks missing the more fundamental point: A white citizen in an SUV profiled the Fridays. Three white bank employees targeted Taylor. The kids of Lower Merion were misdirected by educators into special-ed courses. There were no police at all involved in those incidents.

THE DAY THE FRIDAY TWINS turned in their essays, they arrived home to find their mother, their father and their uncle on their dad’s side all home from work. This was pure coincidence. No one suspected a crisis. But the uncle, a psychiatrist, asked the boys what they did in school. The boys, perhaps wanting to reveal themselves, handed over their essays. The adults began to read, passing the papers around. “We looked at each other,” remembers Anita, “and it was just three sets of eyes meeting in pain.”

Her parents moved to St. Louis in 1965, and she was among the first African-American kids to desegregate a school there. “I am not new to this,” she says.

She also understood that her sons had faced some difficulties at Tredyffrin. The previous school year, a teacher allegedly called one of her sons “a black ass.” Anita went to school the next day, determined to force some change, but says that administrators told her work rules tied their hands. (A district spokesperson acknowledges the Fridays made a complaint, but says the teacher involved denied the allegation. “We cannot discuss specific disciplinary matters regarding students or staff,” the spokesperson maintains.)

The twins, however, kept a lot of stories to themselves. Partly, they didn’t want to upset their parents. More fundamentally, they didn’t think a solution existed. They were being educated by the world outside their walls. “I just figured,” says Joshua, “this is how life is. Because I’m black.”

The morning after she saw her kids’ essays, Anita Friday went to Tredyffrin and asked for an immediate meeting with the principal. He was deeply apologetic and, according to Anita, asked her to recommend a speaker to address the student body and discuss issues of race.

Jordan and Joshua embarked upon the day with great hopes. Anita Friday attended both presentations. She found the speaker compelling. Raised as white, he only found out in his mid-20s that he is half African-American. She noticed that only a few teachers attended the event. And she was upset to hear later, from her sons, that there was no classroom discussion afterward. But the memory that sticks with her is what happened during the question-and-answer session. The students lined up at microphones, and one asked: “Don’t you wish you were still just white?”

LYNN BRANDSMA STRUGGLED to run with an oversized purse over her shoulder, a middle-aged mom more hobbling than sprinting across a Lower Merion field, on the way to her son’s track meet. By the time she reached him, he and his teammates were stripping off their warm-up clothes.

She expected them to be energetic before the meet, but they all looked listless and depressed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“We’re going to lose,” her son told her.

“Why do you say that?”

The boys motioned to the other team.

Brandsma looked at them, standing tens of yards away, stretching and getting ready. Her son’s team, Welsh Valley Middle School in Lower Merion, was almost all white. The other team, from Norristown, was almost all black.

She pretended not to understand. “I don’t get it,” she said. “What do you mean?”

The kids knew they were in taboo territory. They moaned a chorus of discontent.

“Aww, c’mon,” they said.

“Let me ask you guys a question,” she said. “If you all had to go into the school and take a test in a contest against that team, how would you feel then?”

“Oh, we’ve got them there,” the white kids all agreed.

Brandsma was stunned. She felt like she’d raised her son free from any racial bias. She knew all these boys. “My son, these kids, they’re all good kids,” she says. But somehow they were invested in the stereotypes.

Research shows that racial bias is pervasive. In one 2014 study, people from diverse racial backgrounds remembered “smart” African-Americans as having lighter skin. In another from that year, a mostly white group perceived African-American boys, beginning at 10 years old, to be four years older and less “innocent” than their white peers.

Stereotypes hurt blacks no matter what: Conform to them — wear a hoodie, get angry, blow hip-hop out the windows of your car — and you’re dangerous. Diverge from them and you’re “not really black.”

Rapper and composer Schoolly D, who lived on the Main Line for many years, experienced a sense of alienation there. Early on, a neighbor called one day to inform him: “I am not comfortable calling you ‘Schoolly.’ I have not decided what to call you yet.”

“I was like, ‘What?’” says Schoolly. “‘You don’t get to name me.’”

Others told him he wasn’t black at all because he was so successful. Still others seemed ready to turn on him. “I’ve been watching you,” he was told by a white man at one party. “Quit looking at our women.”

“He really said that,” says Schoolly. “‘Our women.’ I blew it off the first time, but then it happened two other times, with other people, and they all used that same kind of phrasing: ‘Don’t look at our women.’ ‘Don’t touch our women.’”

The phrase calls to mind Dylann Roof, the young man who murdered nine black parishioners last summer in a historic Charleston church. Before he opened fire, Roof reportedly listed the supposed grievances that compelled him to kill, including “You rape our women.”

Samantha Taylor, a young African-American woman who grew up in Radnor, told me a white friend once sought to comfort her by saying, “Don’t worry. We know you’re white on the inside.” She understood the girl’s intention to be kind. But the judgment laid upon her brown skin was cruel and reflected a belief that being African-American is inherently bad. And aren’t “racial bias” and even the phrase “racial profiling” just euphemisms for the word few white people want to say?

Lower Merion commissioner Brian Gordon is a white progressive. He told me he wants to make sure regular meetings are held in Lower Merion on the subject of race. But he choked on “racism.” “The word is just so loaded,” he says.

In fact, Gordon retreated into platitudes about the “excellence” of the Lower Merion police department and the entire community. And yet the problems go on. In early November, another Lower Merion commissioners’ meeting became a forum on race. This time, residents were angry because of an incident in which police detained 58-year-old Nathaniel Williams as he waited for a bus. Police were searching for a suspect described as a black male in a hoodie and wearing glasses, who had allegedly just robbed a bank across the street. Williams, who fit this general description, was forced to his knees, cuffed and detained till a bank employee could come across the street and confirm that he was not the robber.

Again, the profiling seems obvious: How many bank robbers flee by crossing the street and waiting for a bus? And as one resident at the meeting put it: If the suspect had been described as a white man in a business suit, would he have been manhandled — forced to his knees and cuffed? (On November 20th, the LMPD released the results of an internal review that found the stop was “appropriate according to the policy, training and all legal standards for the stopping of a suspect possibly connected to a violent crime.”)

Despite the reluctance of Gordon and many others to use it, it’s hard to see how that incident — and many others in this story — are anything but racist.

White kids openly taunted the Fridays, using the n-word around them and challenging them to object: “Aw, you aren’t going to get offended now, are you?”

The kid who shared that racist joke at which a group of white kids was laughing was someone Joshua Friday considered a friend. But when he repeated the joke to Friday, he didn’t apologize or appear at all sheepish. “When he finished,” remembers Friday, “he burst out laughing in my face.”

One can attempt to camouflage this as the behavior of children. They can be so cruel. But the kids at Tredyffrin behaved according to their own feeling of superiority. They must have believed there would be no consequence for them in demeaning the Fridays, in making them feel small.

“They acted like we should just get used to it,” says Joshua Friday. “This is just what we deserved.”

Central Baptist Church in Wayne. Photograph by Colin Lenton

Central Baptist Church in Wayne. Photograph by Colin Lenton

EARLY THIS AUGUST, Tom Beers and Laurie Sweigard agreed to cooperate in an interchurch event marking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Beers and Sweigard run Central Baptist Church in Wayne, two white pastors with a largely white, progressive membership. The event, on Sunday, August 9th, was quiet, a candlelit vigil. One of the event organizers from their partner church unfurled a banner that read “Black Lives Matter.”

Beers and Sweigard didn’t foresee any problems. Over the years, they’d taken stands on issues related to war and various social injustices. In the Carter years, they took in refugees from El Salvador, housing them in the church while their country was mired in civil war. But this was different.

“We got the first angry call the next morning,” says Beers, “and they kept coming.”

The callers all said pretty much the same thing: “How dare you put that sign on your lawn?” “Don’t all lives matter?” “You’re stupid, horrible people.”

Some callers claimed the banner violated a local ordinance regarding signage. One threatened to call the police. One man, who identified himself as a sergeant from Upper Darby, spoke with Beers for an hour. “It was a good discussion,” says Beers. “But it did feel odd that I had to justify this sign, any sign, to a police officer.”

A man who identified himself as the parent of a child at Episcopal Academy called. “That sign is not within your church’s First Amendment rights to have there,” he said. “The Episcopal Academy took away my son’s First Amendment rights by not allowing him to use the word ‘nigger!’”

By Wednesday, the church’s Facebook page had been targeted by white supremacist groups from around the country. “They have a huge banner out in front of their church that says Black Lives Matter,” one commenter posted. “Who is the cult leader? Their lives don’t matter.”

Fear took hold. Dylann Roof. Charleston. Beers and Sweigard started monitoring the site more closely, removing the racist thread. “You look at the shooting in that church,” says Beers, “and you see all it takes is one person among them to get into their head to do some copycat thing.”

They began taking safety precautions they decline to specify. And they added a second sign, as explanation. Together, the signs read: “Black Lives Matter. A nonviolent movement for racial equality, justice and redemption.”

They felt like the country, and clearly many on the Main Line, misunderstood the Black Lives movement. “The question ‘Don’t all lives matter?’ misses the point,” says Beers. “The proponents of ‘Black Lives Matter’ are focusing on the concerns of African-Americans because society already seems to recognize the worth of white lives. It’s black lives society needs to be reminded are important.”

The day Beers and Sweigard held that precipitating event on the church lawn, they didn’t give much thought to the sign. They had no plans to leave it up. But the Main Line’s anger made the decision for them. The sign stayed, and remains there still. “It became a call,” says Sweigard, “and concretized that we have a huge problem here on the Main Line, and this is what we need to be addressing.”

“We’d taken a lot of stands,” says Beers. “We had signs up on various political issues. Nothing had set the Main Line off like this until we used the word ‘black.’”

I MET WITH the Fridays in August, in their million-dollar house, with its cathedral ceilings and stylish, minimalist furniture. What I encountered was a family that had dealt with more than its share of frustration, pain and fear. Even so, they feel “lucky” and know it could be a lot worse.

The Friday boys are in high school now, at private schools, and both report that they are happier. But the bicycling incident taught them a chilling lesson: No matter how much money their parents make, the neighborhood they live in or the school they attend, they can’t completely escape.

I got to see the police report generated the day they were stopped for what their mother calls “bicycling while black.” There had been some recent burglaries in the area. The resident who called police described the boys as “suspicious,” and carrying “extremely large duffel bags.”

I asked the Fridays to show me the bags. They retrieved a typical high-school student’s backpack, which on that day had held a wet towel, a swimsuit and a small bag of candy. The pack looked nothing like a duffel, and the white lady in the SUV now looms as an example of unfounded racial fear. She saw two spindly teenagers with bicycle helmets and book bags; she perceived burglars equipped to carry away all her stuff.

Of course, this incident recalls others before it: Trayvon Martin, shot to death while walking home with little more than a bag of Skittles; Michael Brown, in Ferguson, described by the policeman who shot him as a “demon” who seemed to be “bulking up” in order to “run through the shots.”

“I’ve thought about something like this happening,” said Jordan, “like if I am being attacked, or there is some mistake and I am being shot by the police. I just thought, well, if something like this happens to me, I’ll just say, ‘Okay, I’m ready to die.’”

Tears began to roll freely down Anita Friday’s face. Fifty years after she helped desegregate one of this country’s schools, her child is taking the lesson from his brief life’s experience that he is so very vulnerable, his life so very cheap.

As our conversation wound down, I asked the Friday twins: “Do you ever start to internalize all of this? The way you were being treated in school … did you ever start to feel like there must be something wrong with you?”

Jordan Friday started to speak. Then all his young life’s pain caught in his throat. He choked, a guttural sound emerged, and he slumped forward, fighting back tears.

Picking up for his brother, Joshua answered the question. His words conveyed the sense of strength he’s been forced to acquire. But his brother’s choking silence, his lowered head, said something profound, too — about the damage that’s been done, that continues to be done, and the work that lies ahead.

Published as “A Place of Privilege” in the December 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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  • Edwin L Goff, PhD

    Anybody listening? On campus or in Suburban Square…sippin @ Macdonald’s or suppin @ Wendy’s…walkin / drivin / ridin….

    The Take Away: If you see it, say it…each.and.every.time. Are we listening?!

  • K&A

    Not surprising at all. Have had multiple co-workers (I work in Bala) that live on the Main Line tell me unprovoked (in hushed tones of course) they can’t believe I live in Philly “near those people.” Yet I’m sure they think of themselves as model progressives because they recycle and shop at Whole Foods…the irony is strong.

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  • Earl Dixon

    Sad but not surprising


    Extremely slanted reporting. Smearing an entire area based on a handful of alleged incidents over a long period of time is gross over kill. As far as LM police are concerned they are acutely aware that 95 per cent of crime in the township is committed by blacks. They rightly act accordingly to protect LM citizens.

    • Justthetruth

      Crime was only part of this article but if your 95 percent figure is true, or close to the truth, are you suggesting that profiling is justified ? (even when it extends into other aspects of the relations between different races – assumptions about education, abilities, even likes and dislikes (?))

      • sandifjm

        Sadder than this comment is the poor soul that upvoted it.

      • BillMcG

        Yes, profiling is justified. Stops should be courteous and professional. The stops are effective however in deterring criminal behavior.

    • Steve Volk

      According to LMPD’s statistics for 2013-14, 66-percent of the people arrested in Lower Merion—for crimes excluding traffic offenses—were white. —Steve Volk, Philly Mag

      • Justthetruth

        So the 95 percent figure was nowhere near accurate – so what was that about “slanted”…..

        • Erik Matthews

          let’s not forget that this article repeatedly brought home the fact that not all of these cases involved the police. are school kids justified to belittle and harass other kids based on perceived differences? are “adults” authorized to make judgement(s) based on the look of someones skin/walk/dress/accent?? where’s your stat sheet on that Keyser??

      • KYSER SOZE

        Black armed robbers at Hymies, Radio Shack, the Apple store,Govberg Jewelers, TD Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, etc. Also Suburban Sq. shoplifters are almost exclusively black. Muggins in areas near City Line Ave., are also blacks. I guess we never hear about those white criminals.

      • BobSmith77

        He was told that there would not be any math involved.

      • BillMcG

        Thanks Steve. So if 66 percent of crimes are committed by whites then 34 percent were committed by non-whites. In Lower Merion the population is 92 percent white/asian. That leaves 8 percent of the population who commit 34 percent of the crime (or those non-whites are coming across City Avenue to commit their crimes; much more likely).
        It is logical that the LMPD profile and stop and ask questions. They appear to do so professionally and courteously. They are also effective, which is what the taxpaying residents expect and deserve.

      • donte diorio

        America is 77.8% White according to the last 2012 census yet 14% of the population commit over 60% of the crimes nationally

      • donte diorio

        What is the racial breakdown of crimes in Harlem or the South Side of Chicago…your statistics are irrelevant without the racial breakdown of the area. i bet nearly 95% of all crimes committed at golf country clubs are committed by Whites

    • Ginger Ginny Gibbs

      Truth hurts. main line is elitist and racist. Nothing has changed much. the article provides a perspective that African Americans deal with on a regular basis. You need to check your stats. your racism is showing.

  • Kim

    This is so sad….what’s really sad, is the length of this article, WITH NO RESOLUTION! as a society, WE LOOSE! SMH

    • Tighty Whitey

      Speak for yourself. I’m not loose.

  • Justthetruth

    If it’s any consolation at all (and it probably isn’t) – the racism of the affluent white “Main Line” comes not from any deep seated hatred but from the fact that for all the wealth and privilege, many of these white people are unsophisticated provincial goofuses. And as this article unintentionally demonstrates, the women are often worse than the men.

    • M

      “The women are often worse than the men” – Statements like that express an unfounded bias similar to what this article attempts to illustrate, only what you have said is called sexism rather than racism.

      • Justthetruth

        Okay, have it your way. The men are often worse than the women. There. No more sexism. I keep forgetting that women are immune from criticism but men are not.

        • Steve Chandler

          Excuse me? Don’t even try to turn this one around, buddy.

          You’re the one with the COMPLETELY out-of-the-blue and irrelevant comment about privlidged women being worse than men (which even you admit was your own biased interpretation and wasn’t at all the point of the article). Coupled with your follow-up statement of a VERY cookie-cutter response of a highly sensitive male with a bit of a persecution complex about tall the talk of women’s equality these days…. and you begin to paint a pretty clear picture of yourself.

          • Justthetruth

            I admitted nothing. Sarcasm is sarcasm. My original point was about the large numbers of “Main Line” women who – 2015 or no 2015 – continue to objectify men as meal tickets and debit cards and consequently are the most privileged and elitist piles of fluff imaginable. There you go.

          • donte diorio

            OH my God ! A politically incorrect statement was made, how dare he give an opinion. if this Magazine and the responses are any indication Philly has become sissified since I moved away 20 years ago. Disgusting

        • Steve Chandler

          Your original point was actually a decent one before you completely undermined it.

        • M

          Actually, no sexism would be saying, “sex/gender has nothing to do with how people exhibit racism.” Your correction is still sexist.

          • donte diorio

            So What ?

      • donte diorio

        OMG, people are really losing it . Most are so indoctrinated into a Politically Correct Coma everything is offensive and off limits . Strong Opinions and Freedom of Speech is healthy and far more important than your feelings . Newsflash : The Women may be worse than the Men

  • ErShava

    Thank godness there is no racial profiling in north and west philly for white people

    • K&A

      Lol. Nice straw man.

      • Grievance Monitor

        Use of “LOL” is cultural appropriation. That term belongs to teenagers.

        You should check your privilege and refrain from such microaggression hereafter.

        • Hey Now

          Fact check: Teenagers are not a culture.

  • Kingsley Comane

    So if this publication decided to put the kids from LM or Radnor on the next education cover issue, we all know how that would turn out.

    How is that status report on PHILLY MAG race and diversity coming along? Thought so

  • BobSmith77

    This was a problem even if you were a dark-skinned Indian in Lower Merion Twp when I was in high school in the 90s. My friend got pulled over shortly 9-11 by the Lower Merion Twp people and given a very hard time because he was a Sikh. The officer was too stupid to know the difference despite my friend say he was Indian and not even a Muslim.

    I’d be willing to bet too if you were a black kid/young man who drove through these areas at night in a car with tinted windows, you’ll get pulled over. Reality is that the police don’t need a valid reason since they’ll come up with the most flimsy reasons (e.g., I thought your driver’s registration on your windshield was expired)

  • Juicebox

    What’s the point of this article? Some people are racist, this is not news. The vast majority of us are not.

    • sandifjm

      Great comment. Problem solved I guess. “Those people” should just quit with all their complaining.

      • Juicebox

        On second thought, you’re right. I’m sure this article solved global ignorance and racism. The choruses of Kumbaya will wake me up tomorrow AM all the way from Wayne!

        • W

          @disqus_f0Lu0THGDd:disqus The point of this article is to bring to the forefront of conversation an issue that is largely brushed under the rug on the Main Line. Starting the conversation is important because it will raise awareness, and maybe – just maybe – get parents and teachers in the area to better address this issue with the people whose views and opinions are still malleable and open to progressive influence: children and young adults.

          You’re right that some people are racist and some people are not. Very astute observation…… But don’t you think it’s about time we make an effort to seriously quell racism, especially in our youth? As someone who grew up on the ML and attended one of the schools mentioned in this article less than a decade ago (and thus, saw this type of behavior daily), I certainly think so.

        • Ginger Ginny Gibbs

          Trying to engage intelligent discourse. think about life from another person’s perspective.

      • Steve Chandler

        SHHHH, Juicebox still doesn’t know that the article is about him/her!!!


    Can we organize a petition that it is mandatory for the LMPD to work at least one weekend with the PPD so they see what real crime is ?? instead of arresting under aged drinking little Villanova girls and harassing african americans ..RENO 911 ??
    And as for the main line, never seen so many rich people , but all of them are so unhappy and frustrated..

    • Justthetruth

      Well, yes, they are unhappy and frustrated. When, of their lives’ top ten priorities, one of them is worrying about what their kitchen counters are made of – what can you expect.

      • Lara S.

        Well said, Justthetruth! That and which prep school they should send their kids to and can they afford a new Beamer this year? I work on the Main Line, and all I hear are first-world problems from many of them.

    • PJ

      what other crime is there on the main line, genius?

  • Andy

    Thanks for writing this article. Very thought-provoking, and sobering.

  • Honeybee60

    My twelve year old grandson and his three friends were riding their bikes in Bala Cynwyd when a policeman slowly pulled up them, rolled his window down and said to them, “did you steal the bikes?” He then proceeded to drive off! I doubt very much if he would have done such a thing if those boys were white!

    • Martin Martin

      The blacks got their reputation the old fashioned way – they earned it!

      • Honeybee60

        Poor Martin Martin, you probably got your ignorance and hatred “the old fashioned way” – you were raised with it! It is such a shame that you did not see anything wrong with children being harassed by someone whose job is to protect and serve everyone!

        • donte diorio

          Honestly, when i was young I was hassled by the Police a few times a week. I find it interesting you believe the Cops don’t “Hassle” White People .

      • KMA

        It makes me so sad that you could read this touching article and have such an unenlightened response such as that. Please read it again and imagine if you were the outcast being judged based on prejudices that had nothing to do with you.

        • Hey Now

          I doubt he actually read the article.

        • donte diorio

          It was a well written and interesting article, that said the writer seems to expect the Police and Public to ignore Government and FBI crime statistics on African Americans in the name of Political Correctness and a sad story . .

    • Rose Fails

      What’s funny is my husband (who’s Irish) even says, it’s the young white guys who come and act nuts at his business (spraypaint, breaking stuff, drug deal, scratch cars, etc) which is near Holy Family University – not the black kids who may be loud but come, do business and leave. He has to call police on the local drug pusher and teens constantly who drug deal pretty openly because police ARENT in the area…an assumption that these good kids in that area don’t need monitoring…..

      • donte diorio

        Do yo not realize you just “Racially Profiled” White kids in that area ? If the info you posted is the truth, it is not Racial Profiling IMO but a logical conclusion / prediction on who will most likely cause trouble next. Same goes for citizens and the Police being suspicious of Blacks for the reasons I listed above in my post. I’m Italian , at one time most all of the Mafia was Italian– do you think the Police, FBI were targeting Swedish people to investigate ? No they were all over the Italians, most of who were innocent but the reality is we as Italians were more likely to be in the Mafia than any other ethnic group so the shake downs were logical Police work. .

    • donte diorio

      Were their a rash of bike thefts in the area ? Maybe he wanted to see there reaction, see if they took off like a guilty person would

  • Bill Craig

    Here we go again.. i got stopped on my motorcycle on waverly rd in bryn mawr.. i was doin nothing wrong and bike was legal. Cops being proactive is ok with me.. I’m not whining.. Cop was even cool about my loud pipes.. the deal is the kids we teenagers.. and teenagers get in trouble. Everyone used to want to be on tv ..now everyone wants to be an oppressed victim.. give me a f…. break

    • darth vader

      Ladies and gentlemen #whiteprivilege has spoken.

      • Bill Craig

        This peckerwood sees no problem on my end.. i dig white privilege.u know why? Cause I’m white

        • darth vader

          Indeed you would peckerwood, Indeed.

        • Hey Now

          Exactly what he was trying to say, bimbo.

        • Ginger Ginny Gibbs

          of course. white privilege benefit you and your racist views

          • Bill Craig

            The joke is on u.. white privilege is another phoney excuse used by bitter characters like yourself to deflect from the massive failures that minority communities like ChiRaq.. Cleveland , Oakland , southwest philly, etc experience generation after generation.. decade after decade from their own doing. Darkskin people from India come her with nothing and start businesses and create wealth… they don’t shoot ,kill hundreds of their own people per city per year. So ur complaints about nonexistent white privilege will place minority communities that are currently more impoverished than ever where in 10 years? I think we all know the answer…

  • PJ

    “Aren’t you a lawyer?” the principal asked.

    “Yes,” replied Friday.

    “Well, you’re one of the good ones,” she says the principal replied. “We’ll put him in regular classes.”

    sounds like this is more of a shot at lawyers than at black folks

    • darth vader

      The plane has flown totally over your head. Poor PJ. #whiteprivilege

  • TiredofThehate

    Is all of the Main Line racist now because you made it a race thing? If neighborhoods have a community watch and a white kid is questioned, is it a race thing too?

    Most books I had to read in T/E were about the civil war and how the blacks had to go to war and how blacks were oppressed. Why not include a book about how whites and blacks stood side by side and found against the unjust for once? Not too long ago I saw a group of young white tweens long boarding in a parking lot and cops were across the street watching them from the Berwyn lot to Handles. Is this also a concern?

    I’m THANKFUL people keep an eye on the youth; they tend to cause the most disturbances. Don’t make it about race; you divide us further. That is not what our country needs. I don’t judge people by the color of their skin, it is who they are as a person.

    This writing sparks hate.

    • darth vader

      This writing awoke the hatred that was already alive and well, just not spoken of in polite company. ;)

  • old school

    This generation of cry babies needs to stop worrying about hurt feelings. We have Militant Muslims trying to kill us. A common enemy often binds different people into a tight nit group. No one is bashing any heads with baseball bats or stabbing each other in the school hallways. If we had real racial problems on the main line it would be more than hurt feelings. Toughen up and use it as incentive to succeed.

    • darth vader

      Amerikkkan police have killed hundreds of unarmed citizens this year. Militant Muslims can’t even come close to that number.

  • I_knew_it

    Ask yourself and don’t tell anyone. Walking at night down a dark street, would you feel the same seeing three white kids walking toward you or three black kids?

    • darth vader

      You should fear the white kids. After all they’ve been taught that only their lives matter and that all others are less than. In addition, the white kids parents/ancestors robbed, stole,kidnapped, enslaved, and murdered to get the generational wealth they now have. #thatisall

      • I_knew_it

        For the last 60 years we spent several trillion dollars on welfare programs, set asides, lowering standards, quotas. Look at people coming from Africa and Asia and they are successful. When are we going to stop talking about the past and looking at the future. When are black people see by voting for democrats 95% get nothing from them. Today under Obama there are have more blacks in poverty and unemployed and yet they are blindly following democratic party that gave them KKK, slavery, Jim Crow.

        • darth vader

          Welfare programs are not the answer. Good schools, safe neighborhoods (including police who are not state-sanctioned executioners) and equal opportunity for higher education and employment are. Call me when systemic oppression and white male heteropatriarchy are ended. Then, and only then, this country might have a chance at extending true justice and equality to blacks.

      • I_knew_it

        After spending trillions of dollars on welfare and you are still not satisfied. Try going to school, learn a trade and go to, work.

  • Natalie

    Coming of age (white) on the Main Line, I always felt bad for my black friends who dealt with the social pressures of representing all black people everywhere. Fortunately I never witnessed any violent or over-the-top racism among my neighbors or classmates, but more subtle, loaded comments about “urban people,” affirmative action, “reverse racism,” black peers not “really” being black, complaints about political correctness, etc., were commonplace. I never understood why black families would want to live in such an environment. But I suppose there aren’t many safer or more welcoming alternatives.

  • MartinBFox

    No on expects the Spanish Inquisition except when it’s Lynn Brandsma on the hunt for thought crime. Stunned she was not, but she had her teachable moment. “Later that day she talked her son out of his depravity by painting a vivid picture in words of his prospects as a 6’7″ player in the NBA.” I’d love to have been there.

  • Lower Merion Parent

    Thanks for writing this provocative article & exposing the extent of my own ignorance. Clearly we have work to do and this discussion is necessary.

  • John T. Barker

    Racism should not be a surprise, unfortunately, to anyone living in this world. The notion that the Main Line is different from the rest of the world with regard to racism is just plain dumb. This article is another example of the media inflaming a situation to make more money, sell more issues, make a name. Mr. Volk how did you do the background for this article? Did you seek out blacks that had had bad experiences here on the Main Line due to color? Was that hard? You don’t even do it well…yes police will pull over someone that meets the general description of a suspect of a crime. WITNESSES MAKE MISTAKES IN THEIR DESCRIPTIONS! What a surprise. What is the initial story intro about? One woman who got excited and children that “panicked”, combine the two and it was a bad situation. The police she called handled it well. This is an example of a bad incident being inflamed because someone decided it was worth putting on social media where for some reason viral=meaningful. You make some good points in the article, promotions not gained, schools incorrectly assessing aptitude, etc. Racism on the Main Line, I’m shocked! Not a story worth the space the way it is written. Btw, when you go out of your way to choose affluent and educated blacks for your story, detailing their wealth, you are profiling in reverse. I learned of this article because the T/E Board of Ed president e-mailed all parents in T/E to assure us of all the school system does to address the issue of racism. The description of all they do was encouraging, the ethnic and racial diversity of my child’s class makes me very happy though I know from experience in life that racism will be with us. Unfortunately evil and ignorance prevail. It troubles me that the board of ed president had to take time out of his day because Philadelphia magazine put this article on its front page.


    See the Main Line Times for black Thanks giving shooting in Ardmore. No white folks in sight again.

  • meanpeoplesuck

    The fact of the matter is that no matter what you are doing- driving, biking like the Fridays, walking like Trayvon- BWB (Breathing While Black) has been the oldest crime in the lilly white book since Day One. Without our permission they have declared themselves to be above us and that is what they cling to. The election of the first President of Color was supposed to change all this but it has just filled the lilly whites with more rage, so the pace of the genocide they carry out on the streets of Amerikkka daily has increased. The people of color on the Main LIne are lucky. They are still alive.

    There would be two ways to solve this. The easy way would be for the country to pay the long overdue bill of reparations for slavery. The country was built with slave labor and lilly whites never paid for it. It would be paid for by a White Skin Priveledge Tax. There is census data to enforce it. President Obama could cap off his historical presidency by enacting this by Executive Order, since the RepubliNaziTards would never allow this justice to be served.

    The other would be to turn the tables on Adolph Trump, and have the lilly whites, the original terrorist refugees, to go back to Europe where they came from.

    • CopyofaCopy

      HAHAHAH. The people who sold the blacks as slaves in Africa should pay too. I’m all about equality. 50/50.. Or 49/51 b/c I have white privilege, though I’m not racist nor did I ever have slaves. Lol.

      • meanpeoplesuck

        Your ancestors did and you have benefitted from White Skin Priveledge.

  • Raj Mahabir

    Reading this was so upsetting, I couldn’t finish it all at once. I had to stop partway through not because I ran out of time, but because I ran out of endurance. What a great and sobering piece, especially considering it’s taking place not in the 1960s, but TODAY.

  • WhitewomenontheMainLine

    As a resident of the neighborhood where the incident took place with the twin brothers of African decent on their bicycles…Here are a few details…a week earlier we had SEVERAL break in attempts by 3 persons of dark skin. This information was distributed to the neighborhood.
    The neighbor demographic is mostly of European, Asian and Indian decent. It is not all white. No African Americans have chosen to purchase a house in our community of 160 homes. With that alert sent out through your neighborhood, wouldn’t you have at least the smallest bit of concern of who they were? This was an isolated incident in a neighborhood deemed to be on the ‘Main Line.’ There are far more affluent areas than our neighborhood. On the 9th page of the article, after the ‘continued on page 120’ break, Philadelphia Magazine’s Steve Volk did mention our neighbor had had several previous attempted break-ins…to use this ‘incident’ as the basis for their cover story and suggest racial profiling was a chronic problem in our area, and to accuse the members of our community of such actions is irresponsible journalism, an ugly generalization and just plain wrong. I have come to the conclusion that all articles in Phildalphia Magazine are puffed-up, inaccurate, and over sensationalized to appear as provocative and raw journalism.
    But that’s just a generalization on my part…

    • CopyofaCopy

      No one cares about the truth. People love playing the victim card. Go dye your skin black.. then people will listen to your problems. Black Live Matter, not yours.

  • Rose Fails

    Lol..the opinions of the ‘old guard’ Crack up. My mother is a Doctor near retirement, my dad a retired NYC Middle School Dean and my brother works for a NY State Psychiatric Center for Children in Long Island. I AM the neighbor you want – or would you rather have someone who behaves like a Honey Boo Boo cast member as neighbor because they may look like you? What’s funny is in NY my parent’s neighborhood has a little of every group (as does mine here in Philly). The assumption there is, if you can pay to live there (where a house is about 500k if you’re lucky) who cares what you look like?….you’re treated based on the color of your money, not skin.

    • donte diorio

      Not so sure judging ones worth by the price of there home or what neighborhood a person lives in is pretty sad really

  • Lara S.

    A few years ago, when I was a student at Rosemont College, I was driving home from my night class when I was stopped by a Lower Merion police officer for a minor traffic vioilation. He screamed at me and threatened me as no one had ever done. From the way he was carrying on, you would have thought I was being busted for drugs. I should mention that I was driving a modest Saturn Ion through an affluent neighborhood, and he probably suspected the worst. Only when he saw my driver’s license, which had a Main Line address, did he relent and let me go. On another occasion, I was shopping at a store in the same area. A man was blocking the aisle, and when I politely tried to pass, he gave me a nasty up-and-down look and refused to move. Finally, I was in a parking lot in Wayne one day, and as I was walking through the lot, I politely stopped to allow a woman to park her car. She accused me of stalking her just because I was standing there close to her. I could go on, but I think you get the hint. Do you think I’m black? Guess again; I’m white and originally from a low-income area. Skin color isn’t the only marker narrow-minded people discriminate against. A person’s social class can also be evident and brand that person an Other. Perhaps my woes would be greater if I were of a different skin color, but I stopped driving through the Main Line at night after that traffic stop.

  • donte diorio

    Anyone who claims racial profiling is only a form of racism is not being honest. Where does that mindset come from? Racism or reaction to digested information provided by Newspapers, Cable News, Music, TV, Movies, Radio ,Police stats and FBI stats The reality is 14% of our population is committing an alarming number of crimes according to Gov crimes statistics. Should we as citizens ignore reality? Should the Police ?
    With little exception Gangs are African American. The Bloods, The Crips, The Black Disciples , Gangster Disciples–Folk Nation , People Nation — they are all Black. The Gangs are also very visible in the streets, In Jails, In Prison, In Music, On TV, Etc — You would have to be blind and ignorant not to be aware the Black Community has a huge problem with Gangs, violence, guns, and drugs. The Black on Black Crime and Black on Black Murder rates are mind boggling in City after City across the country. Should the Police and we as Citizens turn a blind eye to this reality in the name of Political Correctness ?
    Rap Music stars are primarily Black , they also glamorizes guns, drugs, violence, and crime, on TV and radio every day. People have eyes and ears– We as humans gather information from personal experience and from outside sources, then create a overall opinion. The Police and the public would have to ignorant or uninformed not to have informed opinions about who is more or most likely to commit a crime..