by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

A few years ago I was attacked and beaten unconscious on my street in Brooklyn. I was set upon my three young black men, one armed with a pipe and wearing, yes, a hoodie.

During the attack, another man came to my aid. He saw the attack, rushed in and received a blow to the head with that same pipe for his trouble. But this man, a complete stranger to me, made enough noise and drew enough attention that my attackers fled.

Brian Beutler is correct to say that I can’t draw a conclusion from the fact that the only person who has ever attacked me was a young black man wearing a hoodie. But here’s one fact I can add: The only person who has ever rescued me from a street attack was a young black man wearing a hoodie.

Sadly the story of the Australian baseball player randomly targeted in Oklahoma didn’t end nearly as well. Update from a reader with another story:

I lived in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn for 7 years, moving promptly after a group of black boys in hoodies attacked me on my way home from work.

It was 6:00 PM and the same few blocks I walked for years with no incident. As I left the subway exit, the boys were ahead of me, and since I am a fast walker I passed by them. Bam! One punched me in the face, they all jumped me, stealing my iPhone (I fought back enough that they didn’t get my bag or wallet, and when the other commuters approached they ran). I walked away, which I consider lucky.

What surprised me most was the most common reaction amongst my friends and family: “Why when you saw a group of black boys did you not cross the street? Why would you pass them?” My reply was usually, “If I crossed the street every time I saw a group of black kids, I’d never get anywhere. I live in Brooklyn!” That night there was a snowstorm leaving about two feet of snow, and in the morning I went to dig my car out so I could look at places to live outside of the city. I was approached by two black kids in hoodies and shovels.

They offered to dig my car out so long as I paid them, as they did a few others digging themselves out. I felt in that moment I had a choice. I honestly didn’t know if these boys were two of the gang that jumped me. I was jumpy enough I could have told them to get lost. Instead, I thanked them for their help. Noticing that one of them was using a heavy coal shovel instead of a lighter snow shovel, I gave him some extra money and told him to buy a better shovel.

I was traumatized by what happened the night before, but if I didn’t accept their help, I felt like I’d be like all those people who told me to assume any group of black boys in hoodies were thugs. I refused to lump all “black boys in hoodies” together. These kids were out trying to earn money, not steal it. I refused to believe that was true. I wonder sometimes if maybe they were part of that gang, or knew the kids who were. It doesn’t matter I suppose, but I do feel good about maintaining my integrity. I can say that what happened didn’t make me prejudiced or cynical, because if it did, then those boys who jumped me would have taken much more than my iPhone.