Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
MICROPOLIS: Trayvon Martin and the Threat of Black Manhood
Monday, July 15, 2013 - 05:26 PM
In this episode of Micropolis, we ask whether it's possible for black men to avoid being profiled. For some black men, the answer is yes, but it involves making compromises -- in terms of clothing, language and manner -- that others find detestable.
Growing up in the South, Tony Award-winning choreographer and MacArthur Genius Bill T Jones said he learned to be extra-polite with the authorities by watching his normally-assertive father turn deferential whenever the sheriff came around.
In the mid-90s, Jones was driving down the Palisades with his partner when they stopped on the side of the road. Before they knew it Jones was being pulled out by a police officer and spread-eagled against his car. The officer told Jones he was wanted for armed robbery in Chicago, and it was only after Jones and his partner produced a recent issue of Time magazine that the officer realized his mistake. There was Jones, on the cover of the magazine. As they parted ways, Jones turned to the cops and, not forgetting what he'd been taught, said "Thank you."
"It felt like it was almost in our DNA, as black Americans," said Jones. "You have to be careful, because they are looking for a reason to shoot you."
Listen to the full Micropolis segment above.