Christian Alexander Pean, a fourth-year medical student in New York, was at the movies two days after the Paris terrorist attacks when he was approached by a middle aged white man who said he didn't trust him and that he should not be texting in public after "what happened in Paris," he wrote in a post on Facebook yesterday.
Pean was waiting for a friend at the AMC on 84th Street in Manhattan, passing the time on his phone, when a man he didn't know came up to him, asked him what he was doing there, and demanded that he stop texting. The man then asked him what was inside his jacket, Pean said, and said he was suspicious of Pean. He wrote in the Facebook post:
Then he goes on and gets louder, "Is that really what you're doing? Stop standing there and texting. You know what happened in Paris. Guys like you texting and standing…that's suspicious." I was paralyzed by shock and disbelief at first. I looked around and saw multiple people standing around texting. "Everyone is texting man, it's what people do when they're waiting. Why don't you leave me alone". He gets more aggressive, "I have my daughter here, how about you get off your phone and stop texting?!".
Pean then started filming the man:
Pean, 28, is a medical student at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York and grew up in Texas, the Village Voice reports, with Haitian and Mexican heritage. “I was so shocked, my first instinct was to reassure him,” Pean told the paper. “I started to tell him I was a medical student, that I’m American, I’m Catholic," but, he said, he realized that anyone should be allowed to text in public without being harassed.
“It struck a chord with me and made me realize so many innocent people get targeted like this every day. How dare he make assumptions about me?" In his Facebook post, he had a message for the man who approached him:
To the guy who wouldn't stop badgering me in the lobby of the movie theatre for texting while being Black and wearing a jacket for 5 minutes: You are setting a terrible example for your daughter, and you are NOT a patriot. You are not a brave man; you are a coward for giving into fear and targeting an innocent person in a public space trying to live their life the same as you. You dishonor the victims of Paris and Beirut with your actions. I was just trying to find a sliver of escapism and peace in an otherwise daunting world the same as you. Thanks for ruining that for me. You are a paranoid bully. Your bravado, bluster, and prejudice are reflective of so many things wrong with this world. I'm ashamed that you're one of my countrymen, but more than anything I feel sorry for you. I pray you learn to live your life without such unwarranted fear and hate in your heart. I hope that you don't teach your daughter the ugliness you showed yesterday in that AMC theatre lobby. Next time, I hope you pause, and use some common sense instead of frightening everyone, including your daughter and me, so that you can feel "safe".
Muslims around the world responded to the attacks by declaring that the terrorists do not stand for them, but many are bracing themselves for a backlash against Muslims and immigrants, particularly refugees caught in the current crisis.
Correction: This article originally named the man who posted the message on Facebook as Christopher Alexander Pean - his name is Christian Alexander Pean.