For many kids and their families, summer jobs are a rite of passage: a way of imparting lessons about responsibility and hard work, and finally having a response to the age-old parental question, “you have McDonald’s money?”
But one Ohio family says their summer job instead turned into a lesson on racial profiling.
As WABC TV reports, Brandie Sharp had taken her two sons, Mycah, 17, and Uriah, 11, to deliver newspaper ads to a neighborhood in Upper Arlington. The point, Sharp said, was “teaching them how to work, how to be productive and how to stay busy.”
But at one point, Uriah had to backtrack after the group had delivered the ad bags to the wrong houses. While he was collecting the bags, someone in the neighborhood called the cops on him.
Sharp says she showed the officer proof that they were delivering the Columbus Dispatch’s ad package, known as “The Bag.”
“[The officer] said ‘Oh, really?’ and by that time I was kind of like, ‘OK, why are you questioning me about this?’” Sharp recalls.
According to WABC TV, which had audio of the phone call, the caller to Upper Arlington Police said at first, it appeared as though the group was delivering papers, “but I noticed they were walking up to the houses with nothing in hand and one of them came back with something.”
“I mean, I don’t want to say something was going on, but it just, but it just seemed kind of suspicious,” the caller reportedly said.
Sharp, who called the incident “disheartening,” wonders why the caller didn’t just reach out to them and ask them what was going on.
“What was suspicious at 5:30 in the evening? What was this big, you know, reasoning that you had to call the police?” she told the TV news outlet.
“Something as simple as delivering papers and it turns out to be I have to be racially profiled?” she said.
An officer who responded to the call very quickly found out there wasn’t much to it.
Officer Bryan McKean, speaking on behalf of Upper Arlington Police, told WABC TV, “when our officer arrived on scene, he very quickly determined that these individuals were delivering the newspaper.”
The story immediately brings to mind another recent incident where neighbors called the police on a black 12-year-old repeatedly for mowing a lawn and, later, for playing on a slip-n-slide on the 4th of a July.
So far this summer, white people have made headlines for harassing black people and people of color for going to the pool, wearing shirts proclaiming their heritage, attending funerals, selling bottles of water, and walking their dogs. Rightfully, much of the public attention is focused on punishing these 911-happy trolls for not just racially profiling, but wasting police resources and potentially endangering the lives of the black people they’re calling the cops on. Less attention has been paid, however, to short and long-term effects of having the cops called on you for the most innocuous, mundane reasons.
Uriah, who was simply doing what his mother told him when he retrieved the bags from the Upper Arlington porches, said he’ll continue helping his mom, but that the experience with the cops left him uncomfortable.
In a Facebook post describing the incident, Sharp said she would tell her boss to change their paper route.