I am a writer who lives in the middle of a very white part of West Hollywood. I work from home most of the day, and when I’m working, I’m usually listening to music. While my playlists vary from day to day, trap music makes a regular appearance, and I like to listen to my music at ignorant volumes.
It is because of this that each time I get a new neighbor, I introduce myself to them and then give them the speech about how I like to listen to loud music, and if it ever gets bothersome, they should reach out to me directly—not the police.
You have to have these kinds of conversations with your neighbors, especially if you are black and they are not. Doing so could possibly help avoid a situation like the one Dr. Mary Branch found herself in with her neighbors in Chapel Hill, N.C., last fall.
Branch is a senior resident in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Branch described what happened the day she turned on some ’90s R&B and hip-hop to celebrate both her acceptance into a cardiology fellowship and her pregnancy.
After about an hour of listening to the music, she turned her stereo back down. A police officer showed up on her doorstep some time later and informed her that the cops had received a complaint from her neighbors about the music.
The incident, Branch said, made her feel like “an unwanted outsider in a community of which” she thought she was a member
“These scenarios aren’t new, nor are the emotions they stir up in us,” Branch wrote. “As people of color, we’ve learned to present ourselves in an assimilated manner to shield ourselves from overpolicing. The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar described it best: ‘We wear the mask that grins and lies.’”
Add to the list of things you can’t do and be black: listen to music and celebrate success.