Today I am thinking about Tamir Rice and yet another family of color dealing with a lack of justice for their dead son.
Last night I saw racial profiling happen before my very eyes. I am having a hard time uploading my video onto my blog, but last night (December 28) I was in my car port smoking a cigar when I saw a young man who was Latino walking home after parking his car on our block. There are low income apartments a block or so away from us and a lot of folks park on our street because the apartments have expensive parking charges.
As he was walking home a police car pulled up in front of our house and the police officer started talking to the young man. The young man walked over to the car and the police officer immediately started taking his bag and his phone from him and then had him get spread eagle on the front hood of the car and he handcuffed him. This seemed to be a pretty quick response to me so I walked toward them, though remaining on my sidewalk at a safe distance, and I started taping the incident.
The police office got in his car to run the young man’s information and when he noticed me taping him he turned on his spotlight in my face, making it difficult for me to tape him. He asked me who I was and what I was doing and I told him I didn’t have to answer any questions. He called for backup and two officers shortly arrived.
One of the officers came over to me to ask me who I was and what I was doing and I told him I did not have to answer any questions, though he kept trying. I remained respectful towards him though I maintained my right not to answer any questions.
After at least 15-20 minutes, with the young man handcuffed the entire time, the officer finally found out what the young man had been telling him all along – that he had done nothing wrong and was just walking home. So, he was released. The young man thanked me for taping the incident and walked home.
Yet, I feel sure this incident will scar this young man for quite some time. All because he parked on our street and was trying to walk home, he was handcuffed for 20 minutes, had his bag and his phone taken from him, and he was treated like a criminal. He will be much less trusting of law enforcement even though the majority of law enforcement persons, in my opinion, are certainly worthy of our trust and respect.
However, the young man, his family, and his community will be less likely to want to cooperate with law enforcement. This is the damage done by racial profiling. This is why racial profiling is not just immoral and unethical; it is damaging to public safety therefore, damaging to all of us including those of us who will never be racially profiled because we are members of the dominant culture. When relationships with law enforcement are hurt, the entire community – all of society actually – are hurt as well.
This is also why Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and the other presidential candidates calling for the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants make for good sound-bites and loud cheers at big rallies, but they actually work against public safety. Public safety is certainly among the top of concerns for people in the United States these days, but it is remarkable to me how some of the politicians who seem to be the most focused on this – namely Trump and Cruz among others – call for policies that will do more to undermine public safety than preserve it. They are unthinking politicians and they are calling for horrible and senseless policies.
You cannot attain public safety without public trust, and so when you racially profile people – or in Trump’s idiotic call for religiously profiling Muslims to prevent them from entering the U.S. and to look at mosques “more closely” – you alienate some of the very people with whom trust must and should be built.
This is why most law enforcement persons are adamantly against racial profiling and the policies like forcing local law enforcement to act as immigration agents that promote racial profiling. Enforcing the law and maintaining public safety are not mutually exclusive. Instead they are interdependent on one another. The police needs an engaged citizenry willing to pray for their safety and hold them accountable. A truly safe and secure public needs this too.
It is time those of us who proclaim to follow the Prince of Peace to do both – to pray AND hold the police accountable for racially profiling our neighbors and members of our communities. And when our political “leaders” holler and scream about public safety, but in reality, are using those words as a very thin veil for racial and ethnic demonization, then we should clearly and loudly, if necessary, point that out too.