The young Black man from Ewing Township had made it
Tahir Johnson, a third-generation native of Ewing Township, N.J., received a blunt warning from his mother during his coming-of-age years in the late 1990s on the north side of Trenton.
“Be careful driving while Black,” his mom, Carolyn Watson Johnson, used to tell him and his brothers.
What some people take for granted—that they won’t be discriminated against based on the color of their skin or simply where they live—was very much absent from the everyday reality for Johnson and his peers.
“In Trenton, growing up, it was literally like anytime you were outside, or if there was a couple of us in the car doing anything, we’re going to get pulled over,” Johnson says. “Every time they’re going to search our car.”
When Johnson graduated high school in 2001, gangs were robust, the police presence was heavy, and, at times, it felt like a war zone, he says.
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