Walking While Black

Walking While Black

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Updated May 22, 2018 at 05:15PM EDT by Brad.

Added Sep 16, 2014 at 04:04PM EDT by Don.

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"Walking While Black" is an expression referring to the racial profiling of black pedestrians using a play on words derived from the United States criminal offense of driving while intoxicated. Variations of the phrase include "driving while black," "learning while black," "shopping while black" and "eating while black."


The earliest known use of the phrase "walking while back" was printed in a New York Times[4] article about New York City law enforcement on February 12th, 1999, claiming that black people are often racially profiled by the NYPD:

"But his numbers, however accurate, cannot reflect the anger felt by people stopped and frisked by the police each day only because they are W.W.B. -- Walking While Black."


On October 31st, 2007, conservative author Thomas Sowell wrote an editorial column titled "Driving While Black," which criticized those who automatically assume they are being racially profiled by police. On August 19th, 2008, Jezebel[10] published a review titled "Traveling While Black" of the travel essay book Go Girl. In May 2009, ABC News aired a social experiment titled "Shopping While Black," in which an actor portraying a shopping clerk pretends to racially profile a black actress to test the reactions of nearby shoppers (shown below).

On June 23rd, 2012, the Tumblr[9] blog "Cosplaying While Black" was created, which highlights photographs of black cosplayers.

L NStalnth Cospk aying while Black The blogs avatar (Pinkie Pie) is done by Noxi noxi.tumblr.com x' marks leads back to either the cosplayer or photographer of the photo cosplay ada.com pit MESSAGE SUBMIT ARCHIVE AFFILATES TAG LIST

On June 5th, 2013, the ACLU[8] reported that a 14-year-old boy was arrested for "playing with a puppy while black." On July 15th, 2014, Viner rashid polo posted a Vine video showing a convenience store employee following him around (shown below). On July 19th, Redditor angryblackmann submitted the video in a post titled "Shopping while black yes it exists!" to the /r/videos[7] subreddit, where it gained over 3,000 votes (74% upvoted) and 3,600 comments in the next two months.

Daniele Watts Detained

On September 11th, 2014, actress Daniele Watts was briefly detained by police officers in Los Angeles, California after witnesses reported seeing her performing lewd acts in a car passenger seat with her boyfriend. That evening, Watts wrote a post on Facebook[6] about the incident, claiming her wrist was hurt by the officer's handcuffs and recounting her family's history with racial profiling:

"As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong. I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that “authority figures” could control my BEING… my ability to BE!!!!!!!

I was sitting in that back of this cop car, filled with adrenaline, my wrist bleeding in pain, and it occurred to me, that even there, I STILL HAD POWER OVER MY OWN SPIRIT."

On the following day, Watts' boyfriend Brian Lucas posted a photograph on Instagram[5] showing Watts crying while being detained (shown below).

On September 14th, The Daily Dot[3] published an article titled "Actress Daniele Watts detained by LAPD after kissing husband in public." On September 15th, TMZ[2] published an article claiming that witnesses at a nearby Art Directors Guild office told police Watts was seen having sexual intercourse with her boyfriend in a car passenger seat with the door open. The article contained audio in which Watts accuses police of targeting her for being black, refuses to give them identification and informs them she is an actress with a publicist.

The eyewitnesses said the guy was sitting in the seat, she was straddling him and it was for everyone to see. One eyewitness told cops they cleaned themselves up afterward with a tissue.

Darrien Hunt Shooting

On September 10th, 2014, police officers in Sarasota Springs, Utah shot an killed 22-year-old Darrien Hunt who was carrying a samurai-style sword. On September 12th, Hunt's mother told the Deseret News[11] she believed "they killed my son because he's black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he's running away." She went on to describe the sword as a katana purchased at a local Asian gift shop. According to a statement by the police on September 13th, Hunt "brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword" prior to being shot. On September 16th, The Guardian posted an article about the incident, including a photograph of Hunt during a confrontation with officers (shown below) and a statement by the Hunt family attorney Randall Edwards, who argued that the family's private autopsy found Hunt was shot six times from behind.

Jocelyn Hansen aloga Springs LICE

Philadelphia Starbucks Arrest Controversy

On April 12th, 2018, Twitter user @missydepino posted a video of police arresting two African American men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She captioned the post, "@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing." The post (shown below) received more than 12,000 comments,163,000 retweets and 223,000 likes.

Search Interest

According to Google Trends data (as of May 2018), some of the most frequently searched queries featuring the phrase "while black" include driving while black, shopping while black, traveling while black and dating while black.

According to Google Trends data (as of May 2018), some of the most frequently searched queries featuring the phrase "while black" include driving while black, shopping while black, traveling while black and dating while black.

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