Last week, my oldest son was the victim of police profiling. While driving to work he noticed that he was being followed by a policeman from DeKalb County. Though his driving was fine, he was eventually pulled over. When he asked the officer what he had done, he was told “nothing.” Since he was confused about why he had been stopped, he repeated his question asking the reason for the stop. Then the officer told him that there was a warrant out for his arrest.
This was quite confusing since he has gone through background checks for Apple and Allstate and neither one revealed such information. But on the basis of that claim he was told to get out of his car, placed in handcuffs and put in the back of the police car. He was not allowed his cell phone. After he got in the car, a call was made then by the policeman to the North Georgia County where my son had gotten a ticket that did result in a warrant being issued for his arrest because he did not pay the ticket in a timely manner. However, this entire matter was cleared up more than seven years ago, so it is difficult to understand why this officer was concerning himself with it. After speaking to the officials in that county, he turned to my son and said, “Well, I guess I will have to let you go.”
My son had asked to call his job when he was first stopped so they would know why he was late and was not allowed to do so. He was detained in handcuffs in the back of this policeman’s car for a half hour just because he happened to be a young black man driving a fairly old car on his way to work minding his own business. But the policeman obviously reasoned that he might be able to find something that he had done so that he could get one more dangerous black man off the streets.
It does not appear that he had called anyone before he handcuffed my son, because he would have known that the seven year-old warrant had been properly handled. After discovering his mistake, it would seem that it might have occurred to him to apologize to my son, but it did not.
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We are furious. And we are exploring all of our options for ways to respond in this matter. This kind of harassment is totally unacceptable, and we will not allow this situation to go without being protested in every possible manner.
A major reason why we are in such a state of upheaval in America at this moment is rooted in the notion that black people and men in particular are to be treated as something other than human. My son commented later about how dehumanizing the experience had been. Of course, that is the point: show no respect and use the force of a gun and a badge to support any kind of denigrating behavior.
Of course, I realize that this police officer does not represent every police officer, and I am grateful for the ones who are trying to do their jobs in a respectful manner. But those who are trying to do that had better start speaking up. Many of them have to know what their out-of-control colleagues are doing, and if they support that behavior, then their complicity cannot be defended.
As a black mother, I hoped that getting my sons through their teen years and then high school and college safely would mean that life for them would be able to move along without having to be too concerned about their safety. I am angry about the fact that I have to be concerned that danger can come quickly now from those who have sworn to protect and serve them.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.