Last week, a Minneapolis man filed a federal law suit against our infamous tourist destination, the Mall of America.
Bobbie Allen, a 44-year-old black dude, says he was sitting on a bench, waiting for a lunch date, when security guards began to question and harass him, accusing him of "suspicious" behavior.
From the Strib:
The man, Bobbie Allen, filed discrimination charges with the state's Department of Human Rights, which determined there was probable cause to believe that Allen was a victim of discrimination.
The suit says that Allen, now 44, went to the mall in June 2007 to meet a white female friend for lunch. The woman, an employee of a mall store, had to work longer than expected. Allen used an ATM machine, bought a cafe mocha and sat on a bench, where he drank coffee and wrote in his journal.
Soon a mall security officer approached. In her incident report, the suit alleges, the officer said she told Allen he had been randomly selected for a survey. But she wrote in her report that that was not true and that she had been watching Allen for 15 minutes because he was a "suspicious person" who had been talking to a female, writing in a notebook, looking around at people and looking at his watch.
Hmmm... drinking a cafe mocha... sitting on a bench... writing absently in a notebook... minding own business. Gotta admit, the circumstances seem eerily familiar. Probably because that was pretty much me for a week straight about a year-and-a-half ago while "reporting" on this story. (Long story short: I "lived" in the Mall of America for seven days and wrote an essay chronicling the ordeal).
There's just one small, yet vitally important, difference...
In case my wanton self-absorbtion hasn't tipped you off by how, note that I am a cracker. Which goes a long way in explaining why, during the 80-odd hours I haunted those wretched confines (my behavior, at times, surely more creepy than this chap's), not once was I hounded by anything resembling a police officer or security guard. To be sure, my only brush with authority came during a drunken, anti-smoking ban rant at Kokomo's Island Cafe, but even then, I was politely, if sternly, asked to leave-- which, at risk of stating the obvious, entailed no calls to police, and no mothball-smelling white women clutching their purses and bitching vaguely about "gangs" or "terrorists" or other such abracadabra.
This is what sociologists call "white privilege" and--as annoying as smug, upper-crust armchair liberals can be, especially when over-caffeinated--they're probably right on this score.