"These hands are symbolic of our Higher Power and our faith therein. They represent the intrinsic value and the significance of our struggles in all forms of injustices through racism. Through these hands we were able to perservere and stand steadfast in the midst of the storm. Without these hands we would be rendered helpless. We will continue to pray with these hands to guide us in the right direction for solutions, for strength, power, and the courage to overcome racism in America."

Each story I write about is just another indicator that our society is continually struggling with racial hatred and the injustices that follow. These stories reflect the feelings of black Americans victimized through white privilege. They are constant reminders that as a people we should do better; we can do better. In spite of the growing cultural change, that appears to be moving backward; I feel we have an obligation to ourselves to at least try to undercut this movement by facing our own prejudices. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. When we are in denial of our own prejudices it muddies the water in efforts to overcome this dilemma in moving forward. I know that this is easier said then done, but we need to make a conscious decision to confront these realities. This effort should involve all of us. This is not just a black thing.

We have the power to change the dark cloud that hangs over our head. Our country has been shamed in the eyes of the international community. When we have a politician when asked, when America was great and the response was when families were united during slavery. What is the mindset of people like this? Is America truly great? How can we be great with a clear conscious knowing that racism exist as the bases of our existence? With all of our accomplishments as a world power, we seem to fall short on our morals, values and ethics as the head of the free world. The sad thing about it is that white America approves of their stance with a no-caring attitude. This is scary. However, I don’t believe that all of white Americans fall in that category. Some are just caught between a rock and hard place. But powerful words like compassion, love, forgiveness, unity, etc. can stabilize us and make the journey a little more doable. I am an optimist and confident that we can do this. America, we have big challenges ahead of us to continue to make us great! Let’s not drop the ball on this one. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “I have dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This story is about Carl Booker, who is a native and long-time resident of Riverhead. If anyone knows Carl, cars and clothes are his passions. Carl’s personality is nothing short of a gentleman. His courteous manner is exemplary of  “good home training.” Carl has been an employee of Brookhaven National Laboratory for 20 years and is an ordained deacon at Faith Baptist Church in Coram.

Carl’s stories occurred during the summer of 2017. His first episode happened during a car show in the parking lot behind Main Street in Riverhead. Carl has a new model red Corvette. A white lady who was looking at the cars came up to his car commenting on how nice the car was. She asked Carl whose car was this. Carl replied, “It’s mine.” She said, “This not your car.” Carl said, “Excuse me?” She repeated, “Yeah right, this is not your Corvette; it’s too nice to be yours.” Mind you, Carl had the keys to the car in his hand. At this point the lady said, “This is probably your boss’s car and you took it to the car wash and brought it to the car show.” Then she started laughing. Carl’s overwhelming feelings at this point made him say, “You racist bitch.” He continued: “That you think that black people can’t have a nice car.” Carl said that she had this funny look on her face and people were looking because the conversation was loud. The woman just walked away.

The next episode was two weeks later, at the “Alive on 25” event. This event is celebrated with vendors, music and with a showcase of cars. This event is a joyous occasion where people of all races meet, greet and be happy. This time Carl said that he pulled up to the entrance where the cars were showcased and a white security guard said you can’t come in because we don’t have any spots. Carl said there is a spot right there. The security guard said you can’t fit there it’s too small. Carl said, “What are you talking about, I have a Corvette.” Carl stated that he didn’t bother arguing and parked his car at the end of the parking lot. He got out of his car and began looking at the cars being showcased. He saw a black security guard, because there were spots for him to park his car. He asked the man what was going on and told him what the white security guard said. About 15 minutes later, the black guy said, “Go and get your car. We got spots open up front.” He said he would hold a spot for him. Carl said that he went back and drove his car back to the original entry. This time a tall white security guard told him again they didn’t have any spots. Carl then told him how the black security guard told him there were spots and he would save him a spot. The white man said you can’t come in, because he was doing burnouts the last time he was there. Again Carl tried to make his case that there were a thousand cars in there and why is he being targeted. Carl said he doesn’t do burnouts with his car. He said, “Why would I do burnouts because doesn’t treat my car that way.” There was a state trooper close by on a motorcycle who asked if there was a problem. Carl replied no and left because he felt it wasn’t worth the aggravation. Later, he saw the black security guard and questioned him. The man said, “Look, you are black man with a nice car. They don’t want you here; this is Riverhead.” Carl said this was so sad he said stopped going to the car shows altogether. Carl said this was crazy and seemed like the ‘20s and Jim Crow era when a black man had a nice car and white people chastise him about it.

Carl feels though he has been racially profiled since the summer by a Riverhead cop because of his car. This cop is known in the black community for racially profiling. It has been said that this cop has written a great deal of citations on black drivers. It has been said that this cop will wait around the corner of different events that black people have, so he can stop them to write citations for DUIs. I don’t know the validity of these allegations but is worth looking into. Is this white privilege?

I will continue to report on stories of racism to make the public aware that racism is still very much alive.

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Lawrence Street is an educator and an advocate for education reform focusing on children with special needs. He has taught in Riverhead and New York City and held education administration positions in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A native of Riverhead, he has always been a proponent for social justice and community awareness.