A Blues for Keyon Harrold Jr. Dealing with a White Woman's Imagination

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There are several things a 14-year-old boy should be starting to learn: how to drive, how to shave and how to ask someone he’s interested in out on a date.

Learning how to restore his dignity after being racially profiled by a complete stranger should not be one of those things, but alas this is America. If the 14-year-old boy is Black, he is prone to be educated on the presumed guilt of his skin well before he is fitted for his graduation cap and gown.

Keyon Harrold Jr., son of jazz great Keyon Harrold, was accosted in a posh boutique hotel in the SoHo district of New York City by a random white woman who claimed he stole her iPhone on Dec. 26. Keyon’s accuser had actually left her phone in an Uber. Upon seeing Keyon, the son of a Grammy-winning musician carrying a phone that resembled hers, she immediately went into literal attack mode. The woman wrestled him to the ground and scratched his father, who tried to intervene.

Keyon Sr. had been staying in the Arlo hotel since mid-December as a getaway destination to help his creative juices. His career has afforded him the ability to work with musical heavyweights such as Common, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna. Apparently, his career hadn’t afforded the option to buy his son an iPhone that would not be confused as the stolen property of a deranged stranger.

This is how the white imagination could have been fatal under different circumstances.

“I’ve seen people be hurt or even killed for less,” Keyon Sr. told The New York Times. “She definitely owes my son an apology, for sure. I don’t expect that, and if it were to happen, cool. If it doesn’t happen, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s a narrative of what shouldn’t happen in daily life in America, that’s what it is.”

The hotel apologized to Keyon Sr. and conceded that “more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute.” The reality is if Keyon Jr. was not the son of a prominent musician, the hotel would have likely taken a much more lukewarm position, if not outright sided with his accuser.

The white woman who accused and attacked Keyon Jr. is probably somewhere void of any remorse even after realizing she left her phone behind. It is hard for anyone to go to the extremes she did and not feel validated in their reasoning.

For her, young Black maleness was synonymous with criminality irrespective of where the alleged crime took place. She could not fathom her phone going missing while she was at an upscale hotel without a teenage Black boy being a culprit.

I don’t feel sorry for her ignorance. I am sorry that Keyon Jr. had to encounter such a harsh lesson on humanity when he should be preoccupied with learning so many other things.