Driving while Black

Samuel Dubose was laid to rest today in Cincinnati. He was fatally shot by a campus policeman who stopped him for a missing front license plate. After Sandra Bland’s murder for changing lanes without signaling, it may appear routine traffic stops are becoming fatal for Blacks. In fact, the term “driving while Black” has long been used to describe harassment & racial profiling. Cars with Black drivers are stopped, the occupants searched, the cars torn apart in a search for drugs, & there are often charges for trivial offenses.

As I described in a 1992 article: “In one such incident, a young man was forced to lie on the ground in a puddle of urine while being frisked, another required to pull down his pants & underwear, others held in headlocks, & subjected to intrusive body searches, including a pat down of the genitals. This is harassment; this is police brutality under the guise of the war on drugs. There is also an alarmingly high incidence nationally of young Blacks being murdered during these police actions. In dozens of cases in almost 25 cities, police have assaulted or murdered Black youths, including several unarmed men shot in the back, a detainee shot while removing keys from his pocket, & a five-year-old boy. The policeman who shot the child used as his defense the fact that he had just read an article about “kids who kill” & was acquitted.”

What’s going on here, now for decades, is major assaults on the Bill of Rights in the Black community–most notably probable cause & search & seizure provisions. This highlights that “an injury to one is an injury to all” is not just a sentimental mantra but an iron law of social transformation. The majority of people believed media that Black teens were out of control, that swat team policing was necessary, & let the Black community stand alone against often martial law conditions. And now the Bill of Rights is in jeopardy for all of us. We either smarten up or we go down together.

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