Water Tower Place ouster of black teens not an isolated incident
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Alex Garcia, a Chicago Sun-Times reader, had an issue with my column about a group of black teens getting kicked out of Water Tower Place.
I want to address it because I think Garcia, and a few other readers, missed the point.
For instance, one reader called the incident “unfortunate,” but said she could see the other side of this issue “because of all the stealing that is going on in downtown Chicago by many black teens in large groups.”
First of all, there aren’t “many” black teens running around stealing in downtown Chicago. But more important, all black teens should not be judged by the bad behavior of a few.
That’s just not right and it is racist.
Another reader wrote: “As a white teenager growing up on the northwest side [in the 1970s] I was kicked out numerous times for loitering. But now a few black teenagers get kicked out at water tower place and it’s front-page news. . . . You people are a joke.”
But there’s nothing funny about discrimination, which is why the management of Water Tower Place took Dr. Carla Hightower’s complaint seriously.
Garcia has a problem with my not bringing up an incident involving black teens that occurred a day earlier.
“[W]hat you omitted entirely (by choice?) was the fact that, just the day before, on March 2, a large group of African-American youth were involved in an incident where shots were fired on one of the mall’s upper levels, resulting in panicked patrons running from the mall, and the facility being closed for a period of time,” he said in an email.
“I think you owed it to your readers to provide that full context and not simply to cherry-pick facts intended to draw your narrative of racism.”
It’s worth noting that Kevin Berry, an executive vice president for the owners of Water Tower Place, didn’t use the March 2nd incident to explain why the teens were kicked out.
Instead, he apologized for the mistreatment.
But when something bad happens involving a black person, should all black people be viewed as a threat to public safety?
I don’t see that happening when a white person goes on a shooting spree in malls, movie theaters, churches and schools.
Water Tower Place is equipped with cameras that cover every nook and cranny. If the six young men I wrote about were up to no-good, surely those cameras would have captured those images.
Unfortunately, this practice of kicking black teenagers out of Water Tower Place has been going on for a while.
Shamona McDaniel complained about it last year when her daughter and her daughter’s teammates were put out of the high-end mall.
She reached out to me by email after reading about the recent incident.
“They were shopping, not bothering anyone and were told to leave because they had not purchased anything. When we spoke to mall security, who were very rude to my daughter and her friends, they admitted that the girls were not being disruptive,” McDaniel said.
“They hadn’t purchased anything, but they had eaten and were window shopping. When a couple of them went to the bathroom, the head of security told them they needed to leave,” McDaniel said in a phone interview.
“When my daughter asked them why, he said it was for the safety of the other people that were there, and then he turned to one of her teammates and told her she needed to get my daughter out of there” McDaniel told me.
The mother pointed out in her email that the young women who were put out were basketball players from Kenwood Academy.
“They are all sweet, intelligent and respectful young ladies. The team carries a 3.5 GPA average and they travel often as a team and have never had any issues,” she said.
McDaniel said her complaints fell on deaf ears.
Although the general manager set up a date to meet in person, that meeting never happened.
“I still won’t go there. I feel there is a certain clientele they are looking for and it’s not people who look like me, even though they are saying they want everyone to have a great shopping experience.
So you see. What happened to the six black teens on March 3rd has nothing to do with what happened the day before.
But it has everything to do with racial profiling.
That is as unacceptable — even on the Mag Mile.