It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’m’ still angry about a couple of incidents that occurred late last year. In the headline I quote an elderly relative who still uses the nonstandard, archaic word ‘’tain’t” for “it isn’t.” However, the Standard English verb/ adjective “taint(ed)” is certainly what comes to mind when assessing what happened in the incidents below.

In November at approximately 2 a.m., an Evanston police officer got out of his car with his gun pointed at a young black adult male who had bicycled past the Evanston police station, then stopped behind a large truck on a nearby street.   Even though the young man asked, he was never told why the officer was hassling him and was never told (read), his rights. ‘’Tain’t right!”

Unfortunately, the young man resisted the officer(s) and when further queried in the police car as to what he was doing behind the truck, the young man naively told the police he stopped to roll a joint. The officer(s) then went over to where the truck was parked and found a packet of cannabis on the ground. The man was subsequently charged with battery and possession of cannabis. The man was later taken to the emergency room to be treated for bleeding from his ear. ‘’Tain’t right!” The young man appeared in court in December and is now on probation.

Black males are advised to be quiet and not resist police officers, a lesson that this young black male admits would (might) have been the wise thing to do. But this man felt he had not given the officers any reason to hassle him except for the fact that he was a black male. The police report confirms this since the only charges against this man were battery and possession of cannabis – charges that arose after this man was hassled. ‘’Tain’t right!”

I chose to vent about this incident by writing about it, but the young black man involved fears more harassment if he complains about the incident. ‘’Tain’t right!” Where are we anyway? Can’t be America, land of the free!

The second incident took place at the Davis Street el station a couple of weeks ago. An elderly black woman and a middle-aged white man exited the elevator onto the platform where many passengers stood. The two appeared to be engaged in some sort of tiff. At some point, the white man made a loud comment in which he inserted the n-word. ‘’Tain’t right!” This enraged the black woman, who repeated the n-word while confronting him about using it. An older black man retreated from the area. White passengers paced, moved away from the two arguing folks, looked sheepish, embarrassed, dumbfounded, just plain uncomfortable. The woman and the man kept up their taunts until a black gentleman yelled, “Hey, hey, hey! That’s enough!” I thanked him. The woman and the man shut up. When the black gentleman and I disembarked from the train at the same stop, he said it was a good thing no gangbangers were around when the white man uttered the n-word. I agreed. Racism! Not an archaic notion, is it? ‘’Tain’t right!” What year is this anyway?

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...