Just walk on by…

I experienced a rather surreal moment Thursday afternoon, and I feel compelled to share it as food for thought.

I had just finished a productive business meeting with a friend at the Bella Café in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, one of the city’s more upscale neighborhoods. I began the four-block walk back to our office through the steamy, tropical Wisconsin summer air.

As I turned the next corner, I realized I was approaching a young African American fellow, maybe 17 years old or so. He was talking on a cell phone and eating a bag of chips. He was tall and lanky.

As I walked by him, our eyes met. I nodded. He nodded back. I kept walking back to the office. He stayed on the sidewalk and continued his phone conversation.

I did not ask him what he was doing in the neighborhood. I did not follow him around. I did not presume he was a “punk.” I did not call the police. And I was not carrying a handgun.

We both went our separate ways. There was no confrontation. No one had to stand his ground. And no one got hurt.

I suspect moments like this happen routinely every day in cities throughout America. But they may never be routine again.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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