When I was 17 I went to stay at my uncle’s house. He lived in a mostly black neighborhood but people were friendly enough and I felt pretty at ease there as a white teenager. One night I went to the shop to get a drink and on my way back this black dude started following me. I looked over at him, he was creeping me out and then I just had this gut instinct and decided to run.
I thought I’d managed to lose him, but this guy suddenly reappeared. I realized I’d have to stand my ground (as my Dad had taught me) and so I punched him in the face (always get that first punch in). That stunned him but this black guy came back at me and a full-on fight started.
After grappling on the wet ground (it was raining) I managed to get the upper hand. We’d rolled on to this concrete path and I slammed his head down onto it, hoping he’d give up. That was when he managed to pull out a gun and shot me in the chest at point-blank range.
After I died I found out he’d thought I was going to steal something from one of the houses – apparently there had been some burglaries by white kids coming into the neighborhood recently. But I was only visiting for a few days and didn’t know anything about that. I guess he just assumed I was one of them.
Ok, I admit I maybe would have taken something if it was easy, I was no angel back then. But that night I hadn’t done anything.
I also found out this black guy was some kind of neighborhood watch. He was just trying to make the area safer and apparently he even helped white kids in the past who were having problems. I can respect that. But that night he took me for one of the burglars because of how I was dressed and the color of my skin.
After he killed me, there was a trial. He tried to plead self-defense but it turned out the 911 dispatcher had told him not to follow me – he’d called them before we had the fight and said “These assholes, they always get away.”
Even though I threw the first punch, the jury of course realized that this black dude armed with a loaded gun had no business going to confront an unarmed white kid, even if he thought I was up to no good. I’d still be alive if he’d never gotten out his car and followed me. It wasn’t my fault I was winning the fight before he shot me. He got 25 years in state prison.
When the judge passed sentence, this black neighborhood watch guy got pretty angry and shouted that if he’d been white, and I’d been black, he’d have been found innocent. The judge said the law is applied equally to all Americans, whatever their race.
Even though I’m glad he went to prison, because he did something wrong and killed me over nothing, I can’t help feeling he might be right. If he was white, they would have said he was defending himself in our fistfight and ignored how he profiled me.
But I guess we’ll never know if that’s how the system really works.