Racial Profiling is Real. It Just Happened to my Son.
By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Yesterday, my son was stopped by the police as he came out of our home at 4 p.m. in the afternoon.
“Hey, what are you doing?” asked the white police officer on a bicycle riding down our Capitol Hill street.
“Huh?” replied my 22-year-old, not fully understanding, or perhaps not processing the question.
“What are you doing?” he asked again as he stopped in front of our house.
“Leaving home,” said AJ, as he was about to go to a doctor’s appointment.
“You live there?” asked the officer.
“Yes, here’s my ID,” my son said, providing his driver’s license. “Didn’t you see me locking the front door?” continued my son.
“Okay,” said the officer after his partner had also examined AJ’s driver’s license and they both then rode away, probably feeling that they had appropriately protected the neighborhood.
My son didn’t feel well and he is a 22-year-old young man. What if he had been a bit cocky instead of providing the respectful response that he did? What if he had simply walked away and not responded at all? This incident could have had a much different ending. Trayvon Martin walking in his Dad’s neighborhood comes tragically to mind.
I have lived in the same house for 27 years. My son has lived here all his life. The literal complexion of our neighborhood has changed. Twenty-two-year-old African-American males used to be a primary demographic of this neighborhood and there weren’t many police officers riding down the streets to make sure that they were safe. Now, the neighborhood has changed. Young white families stroll the streets pushing baby carriers, and on one recent Sunday afternoon, I didn’t see a single black person in nearby Lincoln Park. My son is now the “other,” stopped to see if he belongs in the neighborhood.
Although this young man was casually coming out of the front entrance to his home, not juggling a stolen TV or running to hide a possible crime, he was still targeted. There was no indication that he was doing anything wrong, but still he was stopped and questioned by the police.
Implicit bias? Yes.