Racism: The Anxiety of Black Men in America

In 1975 and 2018, two racially charged situations targeted African-American men. Why are black men public enemy number one in America by the police?

Blue Magic is a soul singing group from Philadelphia, PA, and they are known for their hit singles “Slideshow,” “Stop to Start,” “Chasing Rainbows,” “Love Has Found its Way to Me,” and “Spell,” during the soulful 1970s. 

Blue Magic’s TV One Unsung episode gave a lot of insight about the group’s humble beginnings, how they handled fame, and the music industry. 

They also spoke about an incident when they were racially profiled by the police after leaving a restaurant in Michigan. 

In 1975, the group was pulled over by the local police, and all five singers were terrorized.  

Blue Magic singer Wendell J. Sawyer said, 

“All the sudden from everywhere these lights come in from everywhere, they hit the car.”

Blue Magic singer Keith Beaton said,

“They pulled me out, the guy hit me with the butt of his gun in the back of my head, my neck, and I fell flat.”

Blue Magic knew they were in trouble because of the unexpected violence they were forced to endure. The police laid the five men on the ground and told them that a woman in the restaurant they were dining at, said they had a gun, but none of the five men had a gun. 

 Blue Magic singer Vernon M. Sawyer said,

“Nobody had a gun. They took all our clothes out of our vehicles and they dumped it in the street.”

Blue Magic singer Ted Wizard Mills said, 

“They got crowbars and began tearing up the seats, ripping them open.”

After the police terrorized the five men, they made them walk to the police station, which was about a mile or two in the freezing cold. Mills was told he was allowed one phone call, and he called the group’s record label, Atlantic Records.

The captain of the police department said,

 “Ya’ll Blue Magic? My daughter has your records at home. Why are they here? Are you crazy or something?”

Blue Magic thought they were going to die that night, and the next day they had a show and performed as scheduled. 

The Michigan Daily Newspaper

Blue Magic didn’t let the incident pass lightly. They filed a lawsuit against the arresting officers that was settled out of court, which led to two of the officers being fired.

The person who said someone within Blue Magic had a weapon denied ever saying that.

Mills said,

“The person who said that there was a weapon denied that they ever said that. So, it cost them some money. They had to pay us.”

Wendell J. Sawyer said, 

“That was the worst thing to ever happen to us. The worst. Pure racism. You know, racism to the utmost.”

After being terrorized by the police, the group bonded closer because they experienced that aspect of racism together, and it made them a little stronger.

According to Matt Stevens of The New York Times, on April 12, 2018, two African American men real estate brokers were arrested in a Starbucks located in Philadelphia, PA. 

They were waiting for a friend to show up because they were going to talk about a real estate business deal.

While the two men were waiting on their friend, they asked to use the restroom, but since they didn’t buy anything from the store, the employee denied their request. The two men were eventually asked to leave, and when they didn’t, the employee called the police.

Adam Yaffe, a Caucasian male, and the person the two men were waiting to meet asked the police, 

“What did they get called for?”
“Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?”

The officers eventually escorted the two black men in handcuffs and arrested them on suspicion of trespassing. Starbucks didn’t press charges, and the two men were later released.

Starbucks’ Apology

The two men have been identified as 23-year-old entrepreneurs Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, according to Errin Haines Whack of the Associated Press.

Nelson said,

"You go from being someone who's just trying to be an entrepreneur, having your own dreams and aspirations, and then this happens. How do you handle it? Do you stand up? Do you fight? Do you sit down and just watch everyone else fight for you? Do you let it slide, like we let everything else slide with injustice?"

According to Jill Disis of CNN, on May 29th, Starbucks said they will close its 8,000 company owned stores in the United States for one afternoon to teach employees about racial bias. 

Same Racism, Different Decade 

The racial profiling incident involving Blue Magic in 1975 was like the racial profiling incident involving real estate brokers Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson in 2018. It’s no secret that black men are still being racially profiled based on people’s prejudice, bias, and ignorance.

These two stories are just a reminder that no matter how successful or talented black men are in America, unfortunately, they will always be public enemy number one.

“I wish you could know what it means to be me. Then you’d see and agree that every man should be free.”
- Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free, Silk & Soul 
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