Dear editor,

Re Fred Lowe’s story “The Clutch of Fear–Sending racist signals with a purse” (Reader: 8/18/00), it sure as hell, in this instance, renders the term “racist” inappropriate when, as stated right in the article, black women readily acknowledge their wariness when in the presence of black men on the street. And so do my wife, sisters, aunts, female cousins, and nieces. And why shouldn’t they?

Psychiatrist Carl Bell and hairstylist Richard Lewis whine about us black men being viewed monolithically as “urban predators,” but be realistic for a minute about why we are frequently viewed that way, even by our own women! I respect WBBM’s Monroe Anderson for admitting in the story that this pervasive fear of black men is not without some cause. Each woman on the street, regardless of color, already knows that the collective black male population is not out to do her harm. But what she also knows, however, is that there are more than just a few of us who are out to fuck up her whole day. And when a person is afraid, she or he is not especially inclined toward evaluating the rationality of her/his fear, particularly when actual, not imagined, circumstances have created a basis for it.

Simply walk downtown, or on East 43rd Street, Madison and Pulaski, 79th and Halsted, 35th and Calumet, Howard and Paulina, or almost anywhere groups of young black men might be found hanging out, and you will indeed see wary women, of all colors. Sure, Monroe Anderson, Carl Bell, Richard Lewis, and even I do not fit the category of young black males responsible for much urban street crime, but again, when a female of any color senses a potentially threatening situation, she ain’t necessarily trying to evaluate if ol’ boy is a Freemason, Boy Scout troop leader, and church deacon.

Do you think these women deserve the fear and disrespect that they are so frequently subjected to? Do your wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters deserve it? Let’s stop bullshitting ourselves, guys: it’s not white males, or Asians, Middle Easterners, or the Energizer Bunny that women–including black women–fear out here. It is us. And until we honestly confront and correct the reasons why, handbag clutching just might become pistol clutching instead.

Max Franklin

South Shore