Update: Reading While Black?

By Zerline Hughes

So there was that experience I let you all in on about the boy getting “stopped” at the library, right? You remember: when the librarian assumed he was older than 12 and told him to leave the children’s library section to go to the teen room.

So, I let my 12-year-old son return to the same library branch, around the same time a week later, but this time, I accompanied him. I was on a mission and he knew it. He didn’t want me to let the librarian know how upset and disappointed I was. Nonetheless, I wanted to explain to him the importance of being assertive and knowing the rules.

library_cardWell, we didn’t find the (African-American) librarian that refused to ask my boy what his age was before making him leave. But we did get in touch with two other (Caucasian) librarians. After having a great interaction with them about the public library’s summer reading program (which the boy is already more than halfway done with), I inserted a few investigative questions.

“How old do you have to be to use this section,” I asked.

My boy said, “Mommmmm! Don’t.”

The librarian said there were no real restrictions. Only on the computers. You must be 12 or under to use them in the children’s room. Ok … he’s 12 or under.

“OH!” I said. “You hear that?” I asked my son.

So I told her our story. That he was assumed to be older and was told to leave. That he didn’t even get a chance to prove his age.

She continued. “Yeah, we don’t have age restrictions for just browsing through the books. Anyone can be in here as long as they act accordingly.”

Hmmmm …

So, unless my boy was acting crazy in there — mind you, by himself — I think I have my proof. ‘Twas a profile indeed. Racially profiled? I say yeah. But maybe you have another take …

Comment here and let me know your thoughts. Maybe I’m STILL over-reacting


5 thoughts on “Update: Reading While Black?

  1. You absolutely were not. You didn’t cause a scene. You clearly conveyed your concerns. Kids will always think parents overreact, but I think your young man will take away the lesson of speaking up with him.

  2. Overreacting??? Not at all! I would have done the exact same thing! This post reminds of an instance when my sister had her son, at 12 years of age, get turned away from getting a library card! He had to provide a substantial amount of information to prove he lived where he did. It was as if he was applying for a credit card or mortgage! I was outraged when she told me they turned him away because he didn’t have a utility bill!

  3. Zerline, Thanks for sharing your son’s experience and your response. You definitely weren’t overreacting! As you well know, racism has affected Black folks in so many ways – one effect being internalized racism. The stories I’ve heard about how we mistreat young Black males would blow your mind. Individuals who are supposed to protect our children (teachers etc.) vilify and condemn our boys without cause. All the more reason for us to be vigilant and unapologetic as we do whatever we need to to protect them.

  4. Pingback: Much Ado About Nothing | Not These Two

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