Walk Black Live

Readers Respond to ‘The Bill of Rights for Black Men’

Bryonn Bain's "Walking While Black: The Bill of Rights for Black Men," which appeared in last week's issue, generated a highly unusual reader response. The Voice received hundreds of letters in reaction to the article, many of which included extensive accounts of similar racial profiling by police. Letters from African American and non-African American readers came in from all over the United States. Some writers said they had never seen the Voice, happened upon the article on the Internet, and were struck by it. A black professor in New Zealand related his experiences as a young man at the hands of police. An African American police officer in New York City sent a 1300-word amendment-by-amendment response. Space does not permit printing most of the letters in anything like their original length. Following is a selection of some of the mail received.

Street Education

Bryonn booked: the author in the Harvard Law library
Bryonn booked: the author in the Harvard Law library

Bravo, Bryonn Bain. As a journalist in Miami (I'm originally from Chicago), I know firsthand what you are talking about. A nigger is a nigger is a nigger to the police. You have no idea how many times I have to pull out my I.D. before people actually believe I am a reporter. And even then, they want to inspect the plastic card.

Adrienne Samuels
Education Reporter The Miami Herald

Ward Politics

I want to thank The Village Voice for having the courage to print the story "Walking While Black." Would that it were it could be mandatory reading for the Ward Connerlys of the world who think racism is passé.

Martha Estes
Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Bum Steer

I am a Yale graduate who recently learned that several of my classmates were harassed by New York police after they were stopped in a BMW (which clearly had to be stolen, since the driver and the passengers were people of color). Like Bryonn Bain, I always felt that my prestigious background was some sort of shield—that going to private schools and Ivy League universities somehow made you immune to racism. Incidents like this are a wake-up call for me. The question is, what is the next step?

Mali Locke

Degree of Separation

Thank you for printing the article by the young Harvard Law student who was harassed and arrested in New York City. It saddens me deeply that young black and brown people can be so randomly targeted. I can only imagine what would have happened to these young men if one of them had not had the benefit of a Harvard affiliation and some resources. I am sure thousands of poor youths of color have had their lives ruined by this kind of incident.

Charlene Gilbert
Assistant Professor Department of Media Study SUNY-Buffalo

Image 'n' nation

As a sister of two black brothers, I know this story too well. I hope charges have been pressed because that might be the best way to retaliate against this type of treatment.

What scares me most is the effect that incidents like this have on the voiceless youth throughout the country. They started questioning and taking pictures of my younger brother when he was only 12 years old. Imagine how many other teenage boys have been terrorized and attacked.

Umuna Ghirmay
Washington, D.C.

Writing While White

I was furious after reading Bryonn Bain's "Walking While Black." I felt violated and I wasn't even there. As a Vietnam veteran, I am angry that the freedom I fought for there still does not exist here! As former reserve deputy sheriff, I wish to apologize to Mr. Bain on behalf of the white people who still "don't get it!" Please remember not all white men are like the ones you had to contend with!

Roger Howe
The Dalles, Oregon


As an African American lawyer, I found Bryonn Bain's article amusing and painful, since I can readily see myself in the same situation. Such diminished-dignity stories are at their core comical. Your mind says this really can't be, but alas, 'tis true. Thousands of such occurrences happen weekly across the U.S., yet they are categorized as isolated incidents.

James A. Lynch Jr.

Up Front

Thank you for making this a cover story. Bryonn Bain's article validates the fear that African Americans have of the NYPD. This article—by an educated, articulate, calm black man—conveys the issue in language that a white reader cannot ignore.

Taina Mirach

Diss Missed

Does Bryonn Bain think he's the only one who's ever been falsely accused and had to go through a lengthy process to clear his name? Too bad they haven't taught him about probable cause at Harvard. He should consider himself vindicated solely on the grounds that the case against him was dismissed. Many people aren't so fortunate, and end up serving time for trumped-up charges.

David Heide

Club Crawl

I can understand Bryonn Bain's frustration, with the police as well as with the nightclub bouncers. I've stopped going to so-called hot clubs because the simple fact is that if you are a black male with your buddies, you are heavily scrutinized by the bouncers, who often are thugs. Thank you for bringing to light again the racism of the NYPD and giving a voice to brothers who have been disrespected when they were only trying to have a good time.

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