There have been several incidents over the last few weeks, few years, and few decades that show racial profiling is still a huge problem in the United States. MSNBC host and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart wrote:
There is no one way to be Black in America, but there is one way we live while Black in America. No matter our gender, age or socioeconomic status, we are viewed as threats. As a result, we live under siege.
Want to know how exhausting it is to be Black in America? 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾 https://t.co/UtuaTpx3fr
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) April 18, 2021
To say there is a phenomenon in the country called “driving while black” (or walking or shopping or biking while black) is also to confirm the unfortunate reality that systemic racism is alive and well in police departments across the country.
‘We don’t have the benefit of doubt’: the fear of driving while Black https://t.co/fV6bczGhmK
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 23, 2021
The fact that your skin color could become a determinant in whether you’re pulled over by law enforcement shows we still have a long way to go. Now the Mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota is admitting this is a problem for him as well. This comes in the wake of the killing of Duante Wright in the city. Mayor Mike Elliott says he has experienced racial profiling firsthand on numerous occasions:
“This happens all the time here in Minnesota and I believe it happens all over the country. This is real. It’s time for a reckoning.”
"It's not safe to drive in Minnesota while you're Black," says Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott.
"If we see police behind us, we're afraid. We're trembling. That is a kind of terror that no citizen of the United States should ever have to face." pic.twitter.com/phdSI6fHrB
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) April 19, 2021
The largest study ever conducted on racial profiling during traffic stops found that indeed, black motorists are pulled over more often than whites. The study by Stanford University study found:
The largest-ever study of alleged racial profiling during traffic stops has found that blacks, who are pulled over more frequently than whites by day, are much less likely to be stopped after sunset, when “a veil of darkness” masks their race.
“Our results indicate that police stops and search decisions suffer from persistent racial bias, and point to the value of policy interventions to mitigate these disparities.”
This all came boiling over against on April 11th when Wright was pulled over and shot by a police officer. While we rightfully focused on the manner in which Wright was killed, it was also important to take a step back and look at why he was pulled over in the first place. The Brooklyn Center Police Chief said “He was pulled over for having an expired registration on the vehicle… When the officer went over, an item hanging from the rearview mirror was spotted.” As it turns out there is a backlog in tag renewals in Minnesota due to the pandemic.
Wait….Wright was stopped bc of an expired tag. Questioner asks the police chief if he was aware of a months-long backlog in getting new license tags. He said he was and said he told his police officers. So, then, um…..
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) April 12, 2021
Dude. Everyone in Minnesota is waiting for tags! Here’s the line at the DMV. pic.twitter.com/mlEXv8BLO5
— Joe Zahner (@ChefJoeKnows) April 13, 2021
We’d also bet few people know that hanging an air freshener in your car is a violation in several states. Odds are a lot of people reading this have one hanging from their rearview mirror have one in their car and have never been pulled over for it.
The ACLU of Minnesota released a statement saying, “We have concerns that police appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do too often to target Black people.”
Daunte was just 20. He should be alive. He shouldn’t have had to fear driving his car. He was just boy. Had a whole live ahead of him. It was cut short by racial profiling. No doubt in my mind if he’d been white he wouldn’t have been pulled over in the first place.
— Jodi Linton (@JodiLinton1) April 13, 2021
According to NBC News, “Studies have found that Black drivers are far more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers are. Not only that, but once they are stopped, Black people are searched nearly twice as often as white drivers, and the searches are less likely to yield illegal drugs and other contraband than searches of white drivers.”
Black drivers are 20% more likely to get pulled over than White drivers. This has led to precautions, like Adrian Lewis installing a GoPro camera on his car to protect himself as he and many others have been pulled over for “driving while black.”https://t.co/vdnydi1tHp
— Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (@CongressmanRaja) April 18, 2021
A Black Army Lieutenant was filming when he was recently pulled over. He filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated during a traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia. He was allegedly stopped because officers thought he didn’t have a license plate on his car. It turned out he did have a temporary tag, but the traffic stop escalated and the officer behind it has since been fired.
Police killed 121 people in traffic stops in 2020.
Black people are pulled over at disproportionate rates.
Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Daunte Wright. All their deaths began with a traffic stop. Remove police from traffic enforcement. We can't keep adding names to this list.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) April 13, 2021
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) wrote that what happened to Wright “wasn’t an accident. Policing in our country is inherently & intentionally racist. Daunte Wright was met with aggression & violence. I am done with those who condone government funded murder.”
Minneapolis civil rights attorney @nvlevy says Duante Wright's police killing in Brooklyn Center shows police departments in Minnesota still engage in racially biased policing. "Unfortunately there has not been a serious attempt to change the phenomenon of driving while Black." pic.twitter.com/6LOovQ3E23
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) April 13, 2021
On NBC’s Today Elliott added, “We’ve seen this far too many times where a young black man or woman is pulled over by police or encounters police and they end up dead. What these young people are protesting is when will this stop.”
“We need transformation in this country. In this country, if you’re black and you get pulled over by the police, you have a very much higher chance of being dead just because you’re black, and just because you’re encountering police. That is a fact we have to all wrestle with. It’s something that requires all of us to change the system… We want the state, the federal government to take action so that we can rectify this great ill in our country.”
“I do believe very strongly that we will get justice, but we also need transformation in this country.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 13, 2021
Reverend Al Sharpton summed it up this way:
“And you wonder why we need the country to understand why Black lives matter? You can die for having expired tags or for a phony 20 dollar bill for you may have not even known was a phony 20 dollar bill. It wouldn’t happen in any other community.”
Washington Post Columnist Michele Norris adds, “It’s time that we take a look at what’s happening in policing … It’s like living in Groundhog day.” Watch more of Norris’ interview above.