07 May 2007

You were doin' 55 in a 54...

I read the other day that the US Department of Justice recently released a study showing that Blacks are more often told to step out of their vehicles during traffic stops and more often searched, threatened with force or subjected to force than Hispanics and Whites.
This gave me a nice little laugh as I flipped a few pages in the Washinton Post and read the latest installment of "Pearls Before Swine" in the comics section.
After I plugged in a half dozen numbers on the Sudoku, I came back to the DOJ article. My first question was, "Who in the heck are they releasing this information too?" As a Black person, I already knew this. I was actually stunned that someone spent the money and the time to study this. I just thought it was a universal fact that was known throughout the land. Sure, that sounds a bit cavalier I guess, but to me it's like saying, NEWSFLASH - It's going to be hot in July. Hardly worth a yawn, here on the east coast of the states.
As a read through this article, I couldn't help but think back on the lump in my throat I had in LA one night a few weeks after the '92 riots. I was in California visiting a friend of mine and driving a rental car by myself. I got lost and was trying to catch a street name that might get me someplace near where I was supposed to be. I was in a rather rough part of town and I was driving kinda' slowly as I read the signs. Suddenly the night sky lit up blue and red behind me. Two police cars appeared from nowhere with sirens blasting and lights flashing. I was suddenly, oddly - in fear of my well being. I was worried that maybe they thought I was doing something illegal, I just - in my heart - was afraid that I was going to be pulled over, roughed up and locked down in the city of Angels. Partly because the riots were still raw on everybody's nerves, partly because I was in a bad sports car, partly because I was driving slow, but mostly because I was Black, male, and young.
That was then. But, even today with 40 just over the horizon, I still get an uneasy feeling when I see a Crown Victoria in my rear-view mirror. It's even worse when my kids are riding with me. To my credit, I'm a farily safe driver and I've only been pulled over a few times in the last 8 or 9 years, and only one of those was for speeding. And, to the police officers credit - none of them asked me to get out of my vehicle and all of them were pleasant and professional.
All that aside, the threat, the subtle threat of coming across that one cop - at the wrong place at the wrong time with just the right amount of fear and the right sized chip on his shoulder, is very real. I always know that it can happen. I'm Black. I'm a man. I'm a pretty "Big Dude" [as my buddies call me] and I'm intelligent. All I need is for that one, jerk cop to step to me incorrectly, and then I become a statistic. And, I'm not alone. All Blacks - especially MEN, face this same possibility every time we get behind the wheel. Driving within the speed limit and using your turn signals is no gaurentee that a drive will be event free. All we need is a cop that dosen't respect what his badge stands for and a simple moment of opportunity. All we need is that one bad apple to cross our path and we become a statistic.
So, to the Department of Justice. Thanks for telling us what most of us already knew. Now, tell us what you are going to do about it.


Gunfighter said...

What are they going to do about it?



The Thinking Black Man said...

Ahhhhhhhh! Once again, wise GUNFIGHTER you have shared the truth with us!

I don't necessarily think it's a broad cop issue per se, I think this thing falls back to what I've said before about a minority within the family of Blue that lets their negative personal issues and shortcomings rise to the forefront when they have a Black person under their 'control'.

Personally, I sometimes worry about what I would do if I came across a cop at a traffic stop that wanted to abuse his authority with me in front of my wife and kids. I won't allow myself to be humiliated in front of them, and yet, I want to live the rest of my life with them. It's an interesting and dark place to visit in my mind. (I hope that's the ONLY place I have to visit it.)

Thanks for the comment GUNFIGHTER!

Peace, Brother.

Mizrepresent said...

Wow, so poignant, so true...nice post....i remember me and my ex being stopped on the highway, i was the loud one, trying to voice my opinion of how unfair this was, we weren's speeding, no traffic violations, why the sniffing dog? My ex quietly but firmly asked me to chill, i did out of respect for him, but i really wanted to give these OFTGDL a piece of my mind. They sniffed and searched and lead us on our way without a ticket or citation, but the feeling that day of being truly f#$%^d! To this day, i fear them, a red flashing light in my rear window is the onset of an anxiety attack....even when i driving the speed limit and using my turn signal! How wish it was different.

Mizrepresent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the crazy batsman said...

thinking black man-

there is a study for this because the DOJ has become infested with graduates of pat Robertson's university. what is perfectly obvious to most of us is denied by many white conservatives- that racism exists and that black people are victims of it. to them, this is all part of the media's liberal bias.

yes, this sounds stupid, but how else do you explain the need to do this kind of a study, when many other studies have already been done on this subject, and which the anecdotal evidence for is ample?

Anali said...

I have been getting really annoyed by these studies released as news too. I just read something about blacks and hispanics paying higher interest rates on mortgages and car loans. I read them and was like, yeah I know; what is the new part? That is obvious. But of course there was nothing new!! Oooh that gets my blood boiling!!!

the crazy batsman said...

oh, and i forgot to add, that we should also note this study in the context of an apparently shrinking and "deminorityized" civil rights division at justice. i mean, we have solved all racial and civil rights problems in America- why do we need a division? That's pre 9-11 thinking.

mmafan said...

TBM..Long time no talk :) Excellent topic.

Mixrepresent..I was driving this weekend and a police car was behind me. Sadly, I gripped the wheel in anticipation of being pulled over any second. Luckily, he went past me and on his way.

I will be the first to say If I clearly violate the law, then I by all means, pull me over. But frankly, it stinks when skin color is used as probable cause for a traffic stop and this has to cease NOW.

I'm really sorry for the way you were treated. It clearly violated your right to move freely within society without undue intimidation and harrassment. Believe me,it's a humiliting situation to be in. I was stopped and searched for no reason while walking as a youth and I do know how it feels.

Like your ex said, it's just best to be cool. Also as hard as it may be, show respect to the officer and DO NOT over react or make sudden movements. On the same token, if the officer is disrespectful to you,politely but firmly ask for a supervisor.

If you are pulled over for no reason in the future and are treated unfairly, file a complaint and make noise. The more people that band together and protest this, then it will stop.

Studies don't mean jack, and DOJ won't do anything about the problem until we demand that they take PERMANENT action.

onefromphilly said...

I've taught my 16 year old son the Black man rules of driving. I said them on one of your previous posts. Bottom line: live to fight another day.
If you provoke some jackass cop and he kills you thers's only his story about the events. Let them be right, ask for a supervisor if it's getting out of control, just live to fight another day. We have to fight this kind of mistreatment in the courts and not on the side of a dark road.

jameil1922 said...

for real. when i wrote that story, i couldn't stop laughing. reeeeeeeeeeally??? wow! guess i'll have to tell my brother, father, male friends and boyfriend all about that, enlighten them a bit.

JustMeWriting said...

hey, that's all so true. I felt the same way when they decided to announce that white refs call more files on Black athletes....OH REALLY NOW... all that crap is stupid...but I guess they'll just make them apologize. LOL...RIGHT.

DJ Black Adam said...

Great post. Hmmmm. What can we do about this?

B. Good said...

Can't we all just get along?

brent said...

I often wondered if I lived in Africa would I have to worry about police harrassment. Then I answered my own question, If I lived in say Ghana, I would still be an outsider since I am an American and not Ghanese. There is nowhere I can go to be free of America and America's racism.

La Sirena said...

Well put.

I, too, get EXTREMELY anxious when I see that Crown Vic in the rearview. Since 9/11 and the Patriot Act, I have been frequently trailed by several squads while walking from my car to my apartment, I've seen old men shaken down on the corner and patted on the head like dogs when no contraband was found.

The worst was getting pulled over while riding in the back seat of a cab by a very angry, zealous rookie cop who tried to pull me out of the cab by my arm. I still don't know what he wanted or what thought I did. I was wearing work clothes -- dress pants, blazer and blouse. It was midnight, but I was going home after visiting with a girlfriend.

Oh yeah, I'm a short, white woman in her mid-thirties.

When a society stands by silently while some are treated unjustly, I guess they shouldn't be surprised when everybody gets that treatment.

CreoleInDC said...

If they ever answered as to what to do about it...I'd be skeptical. I don't trust em bruh. No way...no how.

The Thinking Black Man said...


Thanks! As a man, I'm confident that your ex was 100% more concerned for your well being than his own. I'm glad ya'll got off with some of the non-violent BS.

It's a shame how things can be.


Good point. While I joke this study in my post, part of me s glad that FINALLY, those people that only believe the truth when it's written in Times New Roman 12pt print - can no longer deny the BS that our people are subjected to! Thanks for the comment!

Hey there Anali!

I'm stunned, like you, that these things seem to be "NEWS" to folks. It's crazy.

Thanks CRAZY BATSMAN! You're on point again!

Hey MMAFAN! What's up, buddy?

Excellent point! "The hinge that squeaks gets the oil!" I'm looking forward to the coming years and decades to see how much power us bloggers will have. I think this is an amazing forum we have. I stayed on the outside peeking in for so long, and when I finally jumped in, I just got sucked in.

I think us bloggers are going to be a big voice for change and an improvement in a lot of things these kinds of public officals do out on the roads.


It is a cryin' shame that you and thousands and thousands of other parents of Black teenaged son's has to teach your child the "Black Man rules of driving." But it is something that MUST be done! Our young men have to be armed WITH KNOWLEDGE when they're on the road and when they get pulled over - just DWB is a crime is many communities and some cops are just looking to get some blood on their batons!

Good for you!

Hi there JAMEIL1922,

Yeah - weren't you SHOCKED find that out? Whew - I'm glad someone told us, because otherwise, we'd have never found out!

Welcome to my blog, JUSTMEWRITING. I love that name!

You know - I thought the same thing whenI heard that thing about the NBA refs too. TRUTH is so much FUNNIER than FICTION! You can't make that stuff up.

DJ BLACK ADAM, my Brother!

I tell my friends whenever I part with them... "Fight the power." It was true when Chuck D said it and it's still true today. I think one thing we can do, is use our voices as bloggers. We are loud and getting louder!


Sure, I guess. Eventually. Maybe. I suppose. Probably. Most likely. Uh... what was the question again?

Geez BRENT that's pretty deep, man. While I don't know much about Ghana's police system, I automatically thought about Steven Biko's ride by the police in Cry Freedom. Sure that was South Africa - but it did come to mind. Thanks so much for that comment

CortneyGee said...

being a brutha that encounters the boys for reasons I do not know ... yeah like I don't know ( it's cause I'm driving black!!!) I find this report is dumb . When will the powers that be start penalizing the police for mistreating our people