VIOLENCE: The Invisible Bars

Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
AuthorErik Maloney
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 207 –210
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096726
The Invisible Bars
Erik Maloney
Niggers shouldn’t talk to white girls! was what I heard yelled in my direction. The
audacity to spew such hatefulness was shocking. I wasn’t accustomed to hearing overt
racism. It was the night before Thanksgiving, 1991. My mother sent me and my five
friends to the store to pick up some stuffing for the Thanksgiving Day turkey. On the
way back from buying the stuffing, we spotted a group of girls and began talking to
them. There were four of them. Three were Black and one was white. No sooner than
we began talking and flirting with the girls, our night was interrupted by bigotry and
At thirteen years old, I had already experienced many traumatic events. By then,
each exposure to violence caused me to grow more and more fearful of everything. I
was tormented by constant anxiety. The only thing that seemed to help me feel happy
and calm the constant nervousness was smoking weed. I was ashamed of the nervous-
ness and fear that came along with the feeling of danger around every corner. I knew I
couldn’t live like that in California. Nobody likes or trusts cowards where I’m from,
and I refused to be looked at like one. After all, I was no coward, but those feelings told
me to go hide in a safe place and never go into the dangerous world again. I became
determined not to allow those feelings control me. I refused to coward down to any-
thing, or anyone, so I did my best to ignore it. At times, I used it as fuel to attack
whenever threatened. To overcome the fear, I told myself I was tough. I forced myself
to stand my ground and fight. I made myself ignore every instinct to run from the face
of danger. And that is precisely what I did on this night.
I immediately knew the hate speech was directed at me. After all, I was the only
Black guy in my group talking to a white girl. My first thought was to ignore or pre-
tend I didn’t hear it. Unfortunately, doing that would cause everyone to think I was
scared, and that would only bring more problems. I knew I had to confront it, so I
turned and used my toughest voice. “Who said that?” I said loudly, as I looked around
to find the culprit. I really didn’t want to know, but I was now committed. You heard
me nigger. I said niggers shouldn’t talk to white girls! he reiterated, further putting me
on the spot. With my chest poked out, my toughest walk towards him and my boys
following me, I accosted my tormentor. “We got a fuckin problem, man?” I heard
myself ask, really hoping he’d see he was outnumbered and leave. I got a problem with
1096726CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096726Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeMaloney

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