DEAR HARRIETTE: What should I do instead of calling the cops? I am an Asian woman, and I live in an apartment in Philadelphia in an area with a fairly high crime rate. Because of my hours (I work at a grocery store), I often have to walk home alone just as it’s getting dark, and I am concerned that this puts me at risk.
That said, I am concerned about calling the police to a neighborhood that has many people of color, especially Black people. I do not think I am more at risk of being attacked by a Black person, and I would strongly prefer not to introduce the police into any situation in this community. However, if something were to happen while I’m walking back at night, which I have been raised to remember is all too possible as a young woman, what are some alternative actions I could take? -- Need Protection
DEAR NEED PROTECTION: You are right to be concerned about your safety during your evening walk home, and, sadly, you are also right that it can be tricky to engage police when there is a heightened understanding that Black people can be accused of crimes even when they are not committing them. Our police departments across the country are evaluating their procedures and redefining how they can support communities -- and it will take some time.
Two things you can do: Be proactive, and go speak to someone at your police precinct to inquire about what they would recommend to best support you. If extra patrolling happens during evening hours, that may be more helpful than a 911 call. You can also talk to your community board or neighborhood organization (if you have one) and suggest forming a neighborhood watch, where neighbors look out for one another.
DEAR HARRIETTE: At my job, we’ve just begun to go to the office a couple of days a week. During the remote period, we hired some new staff into our company. I was looking forward to finally meeting everyone and having in-person interactions with them, even in a limited capacity. However, one of the new employees seems to be flirting with me, and I am not interested. He keeps complimenting me and has tried to inquire about my personal life. I chalked it up to him being awkward and nice, but now he will text me after work hours and has asked me to get coffee sometime. Am I being paranoid? Does this guy just want a friend because of quarantine, or is he looking for love? Either way, how should I approach this situation? I don’t think I’m looking for an office romance. -- Drawing the Lines
DEAR DRAWING THE LINES: Be direct with this man so that there is no guessing going on. Tell him it is nice to get to know a new co-worker, but you are getting mixed signals from him. Say that you are happy to get to know him as a colleague, but you are not interested in dating, in case that’s what he had in mind.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)