Greising: In Chicago, Even Going to Church While Black Can Be Dangerous

Racial bias — even 'soft bias' — is not harmless. For many African-Americans in Chicago, the Chicago Police Department consent decree offers hope that their interactions with police may improve.


BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

When Bernard Johnson goes to church on Sundays, he typically wears a sport coat and pressed slacks, saddle shoes, a wide-brimmed felt hat and sometimes a necktie.

He rides either the CTA Red Line or the Brown Line to get to Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church. Twice last winter, Chicago police officers stopped Johnson and asked for his identification. They asked why he walks with a limp, asked why his arm hangs slackly from his shoulder, asked what he is doing on a street corner in Lincoln Park.

Johnson is African-American. And on Sunday mornings in Lincoln Park, the smartly dressed 60-year-old church elder still gets eyed by the cops.

“I carry myself as a gentleman and a man,” Johnson said. “It’s a problem in the city with the Chicago police. They’re too aggressive. They’re just too aggressive.”

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