A few months ago, in the midst of the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial, I wrote Profiling- Racial and Otherwise, a post that detailed a personal experience that could have easily created a problem when none existed. The situation had to do with reaction to suspicious activity in front of my place of business, which is a significant distance from any residential areas. My words at the time were, “My suspicion was aroused because the activity—a person standing in the driveway– was so unusual. As I approached the driveway, I saw that the person was a black man who appeared to be in his mid twenties. I stopped and asked if he was waiting for someone and he said that he was walking home from the store and had stopped to rest. I acknowledged his response, drove up to the gate, opened it and drove in. That is the end of the story.
In fact, it turned out not to be the end of the story. A few weeks later, I saw the same person walking along the road as I left my office. So I stopped, and asked him if he’d like a ride. He enthusiastically said he did, got in and I drove him home. He mentioned that he had been shopping and appreciated the ride home. That’s just what he had been doing the day I saw him standing in front of my office. And just as he was on the day he aroused my suspicions, he was carrying a few shopping bags.
A week later, I saw him again, offered him a ride and he accepted. There were no vehicles parked at his house on either occasion, so apparently, walking to the store was a true necessity. Standing in the driveway of a business that was obviously closed is certainly suspicious. However, as this experience proved, not all suspicious activity is what it appears. Sometimes, a person walking home is just a person walking home. And sometimes they stop to rest.
That isn’t meant to imply you should ever let your guard down, only that things are often not quite what they appear. And that cuts both ways.