A true story: On a dark and stormy spring night 17 years ago (May 2003) I was chased down and tackled in my own neighborhood of Ocean City by undercover police officers who were following me in an unmarked car. I lived alone then as a divorced bachelor and walked two blocks around midnight from my house to Wawa to get milk and cookies after watching a violent gangster movie on TV. So I was already in a fearful mindset from the movie. When I saw them following me slowly in a black sedan with windows rolled down in the rain, I ran as fast as I could. In those days I was still pretty athletic. I would have outrun them but I tripped over landscaping near my house and came down hard on the pavement. If I had not landed on top on the gallon of milk and the box of cookies then I might have been injured by the hard fall.
The two men caught up and jumped on top of me a couple of seconds later. I was terrified since they looked and acted like mobsters. It was pretty well known in that community back then that I was one of the accountants providing evidence in the local business owners’ fraud prosecution cases against Donald Trump, who was reportedly mob connected. I had good reason to be scared.
I made them show me a police badge (which was odd that I even had to ask for proof) and then I calmed down. They said I looked like a burglar who was reported in the neighborhood. That was odd because I was one of the few white people living in that neighborhood of 4th And West Avenue. (I moved there to the modest working class neighborhood after being forced to sell our beach block house after divorce and it turned out to be an amazing blessing). I said “Really!? I wouldn’t think that a report of a 40 year old short white stocky Jewish accountant house burglar is all that common!”
Anyway, today I remember that story because if I was black, I might have been shot and not be alive today.
This post is written with respect for Ahmaud Arbery, just 25 years old, who was hunted down and killed while jogging in his own neighborhood in Georgia. Despite the existence of shocking 911 audio and video, neither of his white killers has been arrested or charged. Everyone deserves justice under the law. Ahmaud’s life matters.
Writing this blog post made me think of my former neighbor, Antwan McClellan, a neighborhood kid then who is now our state senator. He lived a few houses away. It was my interactions with the strong black community activists in this specific neighborhood, more than any other life experience, that led me to the activist roles I pursue today.
(The photo is my last Ocean City house that I loved, torn down for redevelopment a few years later).