November 17, 2014
Marc Quarles, his wife, Claudia Paul, and their children, Joshua and Danielle, live in an affluent, predominantly white neighborhood in California. Quarles says his neighbors treat him differently when his children aren’t around.
People often say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It isn’t. The road to hell is paved with thoughtlessness.
It irks and saddens me to no end to feel the need to point out what should have been obvious to all concerned in the following story. Had Mr. Quarles been white, a missing purse would never have compelled that neighbor to call the police on Mr. Quarles, and the police, had that neighbor still made the call, would never have dignified it with a visit. I intentionally use the word “dignity” here, as it is Mr. Quarles’ right to be treated in a manner that leaves his dignity and civil rights intact.
NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, where thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.
Marc Quarles is African-American, with a German wife and two biracial children – a son, 15, and daughter, 13. The family lives in Pacific Grove, a predominantly white, affluent area on California’s Monterey Peninsula.
Every summer, Quarles’ wife and children go to Germany to visit family. Consequently, Quarles spends the summers alone. And without his family around, he says, he’s treated very differently.
Most of the time, “I’ve noticed my white counterparts almost avoid me. They seem afraid,” Quarles tells NPR Special Correspondent Michele Norris. “They don’t know what to think of me because I’m in their neighborhood. I oftentimes wonder if they think I’m a thug.”
“The same does not happen when I have the security blanket and shield of my children,” Quarles says. “When my children are with me, I’m just a dad. I love being a dad.”
Those experiences prompted him to share his six words with The Race Card Project: “With kids, I’m Dad; Alone, thug.”
‘Where Are You From?’
“There aren’t a whole lot of African-American males in Pacific Grove,” Quarles says. “So I think most people do wonder, ‘What is this … black guy up to? … Why is he here, and what is he doing? And why is he in my nice, affluent neighborhood?’ ”
That “stings and bites,” says Quarles, an ultrasound technician. “I have a very decent job. I would take care of most of these people if they came to my hospital. And to assume that I’m anything less than a productive member of the community, that does hurt.”
‘I’m Just A Regular Old Hospital Worker’
Quarles recalls an incident when his family first moved into their second home in Pacific Grove. “We had been in the home for maybe two days,” he says, when the police knocked on the door, looking for a missing purse.
The officer asked Quarles if he had noticed anything suspicious in the neighborhood. “And I said, ‘Like what?’ And he said, ‘Well, the woman across the street is missing her purse.’
“And I looked at him, and I said, ‘So, you can come in and look for it if you’d like. But no, I didn’t take the purse.’ ”
Quarles was surprised when his neighbor approached him a few days later. He walked over to tell Quarles that he was “really sorry about the other day.”
“And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well, the police went over to your house.’ And I’m like, ‘You sent the police to my house?'”
Click here to read the rest and listen to the story on NPR
Curated from NPR.org