James Blake Slammed And Arrested For...Smiling While Black? Being Lightskinned While Black?

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After hearing the news about James Blake — the retired tennis star who was tackled, cuffed, arrested, and detained by five police officers as he waited for a car to take him to the U.S. Open — three things immediately came to mind:

1. James Blake is a Harvard grad, a former superstar athlete, and a guy who could very easily be the featured model in a Gucci ad on the inside front cover of Esquire. He was also waiting for a car outside of the upscale Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan. He is, literally, the perfect Black man. And by "perfect Black man" I mean "the least arrestable Black man possible, standing in the least arrestable position possible." And this shit still happened to him. Which reiterates the point that, if you're Black and in America, something like this happening to you is unpreventable. That doesn't mean it definitely will happen to you. Just that there's absolutely nothing you can do — no degrees you can earn, no mundane car you can drive, no title you can achieve, no place you can live, no non-Black man/woman you can marry — that will enable you to prevent it yourself. If it doesn't happen…it just didn't happen. But it has nothing to do with you. Just chance.


2. The guy they were actually looking for is a suspect in a credit card fraud investigation. But let's say they found the right guy. That still seems excessive, doesn't it? I won't pretend to have any experience with or real knowledge of the law, but do you really need to kick slam and jump a guy suspected of credit card fraud?

3. We're running out of choices for arrested for ***fill in the blank*** while Black. Driving, standing, walking, smoking, talking, being a Harvard professor with a cane, running, jogging, sleeping, waiting for a bus, playing basketball at the YMCA, and being on a wine train with your book club while Black are just a few that have already been used in the recent past. Now, we have to add "smiling while Black" and "being a handsome lightskinned Black guy while Black" to the list.

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About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB and a columnist for GQ.com. His debut memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins), is available for preorder.