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.