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Everyday Racism

“Hi, Dad,” says Baby John to John Harrington soon after Baby John’s birth.

By John Harrington

I was born & spent my early life in a sundown town in Southern MO called Sikeston. All of the Black people lived in a 1 square mile area called Sunset. As a child, Sunset was my Wakanda. Everything was Super Black. The schools, churches, corner store, barbershop, beauty salons, & night clubs. Not until I was 8 & crossed the tracks to go to Hucks did my perfect world come crashing down. I was told to get my Nword ass back across those tracks by the police, who I was already scared of cause they used to beat up my uncles & cousins on the regular, & we all grew up hearing the story of the angry white mob that lynched a Black man in front of our grandparents’ church. That was my first ride in a police car, @ 8 years old. It changed me forever.

I’m writing this because my wife posted some instances of Racism she has seen me go through since we have been together in this house on the Southside of St. Louis. Those are just a couple of the things I told her about, because the other things were everyday Racism that just bounce off of me because they happen so much I barely notice them anymore.

Like white women clutching their purses or locking their car doors when I walk by. Or white guys asking me if they can help me when I’m sitting on my own front porch waiting for a friend to come pick up some band merch.

What I don’t tell her about is when the cops pull me over almost every time I cross 270 West or 255 South because I fit the description of a robbery suspect or they want to know what I’m doing out there.

Or when I get stopped by the cops throwing out the trash in my own alley.

Or when I get stopped cause I looked @ a cop that was driving the other way, who does a U turn & follows me for blocks to pull me over to search my car.

Or when I get stopped & questioned for walking from the store 3 houses down from my own house on my own street asking me what I’m doing in this neighborhood.

& I pay my taxes in full every year.

I don’t want to have her living in fear that one day I might not come home, but it’s my reality, & it’s been happening for a long time:

I got beat up by the U City cops in 1991 for “skateboarding.”

I got beat up by the city cops in 1993 skating back after a house party in the Argles under the Delmar metrolink bridge, cause Nwords ain’t supposed to skate cause that’s for white boys.

I got a gun planted on me by city cops on the Westside & they had to let me go cause one of the other cops that showed up recognized me cause I used to help his mom carry her groceries in when I lived on Pershing.

People always ask me how I stay positive through everything. It’s because I’m lucky enough to have grown up with a diverse group of friends & experienced true family. I’m not special, the people who have come in & out of my life & taught me what’s right or wrong are the ones who deserve the credit. I’m just a connector of people.

I grew up in the 80s & 90s fighting Racism & Neo Nazis @ your favorite night clubs with skin heads against racial prejudice. & a group of hard-core punk kids comprised of every ethnic background there is.

I fought with my gay & transgender brothers & sisters in the 2000s when they were getting attacked outside of safe spaces which I frequented because of my job. It was truly an eye opener, & it gave me another family to love & cherish.

I’ve been in a multicultural music group for 28 years & I hope we’ve changed some minds & opened some hearts in that time period.

So I don’t have to get on here & delete or block any of my white friends. They’ve been in the streets with me fighting toe to toe against all of this bullshit since day one. & I’m on here watching them check their friends & family that refuse to see the truth. Keep up the good work. Hopefully you can wake other white people up to the truth.

& to my people. Keep doing what you feel is right to achieve your goals & what you want for your life. We’re human beings. We make mistakes & we’re not perfect. But we want a good life for our families & to make an honest living like everyone else. We’ve always had to work & fight 10x harder to just get on stable ground. & we can lose it all in the blink of an eye because other people are scared of us or hate us because of how we were born. We didn’t choose this life, but we are here now & we ain’t going nowhere.

—John Harrington, husband of Anneliese Stoever and proud Papa of John Henry Stoever Harrington, wrote this on Facebook June 1, within a week of the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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