By Ernie McCray
A couple of weeks or so ago I dined with a number of friendly folks at a RISE Urban Breakfast Club forum that asked, concerning Community-Police Relations, “Can we build a safer San Diego together?”
The answer seemed to be “Yeah, we can, ” as panelists, in a room where smiles drifted in the air like tissues in a breeze, talked of everyone chipping in to find good cops and of how we all need to shed our various biases, as “Trust is fragile.” And it was good to know that the wearing of “body worn cameras” is going kind of nice.
I drove home convinced that there are some people truly dedicated to making relations better between the police and people they’ve harassed for centuries.
But the Tyrannosaurus Rex sitting smack dab in the middle of the discussion, “racial profiling, ” was glossed over as though it was just a slight hiccup in the way of sound relationships between “Mr. Do Right” and angry black folks, rather than it being “The Problem!”
I mean it is written down that we are stopped more than other people are; our children, many of them as innocent as innocent can be, are charted on gang lists and getting off those lists is about as hard as understanding and applying the kinetic theory of gases and getting on the list is as easy as 1-2-3 and do-re-mi and the abc’s.
A black kid can be documented for just hanging out with a gang (his neighbors) or for being seen frequenting places where gang members gather (a park, a local hang out, a corner, an alley, granny’s house, all places in the neighborhood) or for wearing gang stuff (kids love to fit in, especially if they’re feeling safe and protected). Truth is almost anybody who lives in a gang’s territory could make the list. And many of those registered, I found out at the breakfast, don’t even know they’re on the list. Not to mention, gang membership is not a crime.
What law enforcement doesn’t understand and/or doesn’t care to understand, is that their tactics inflame emotions in people who are already feeling the deep burn of just being black in America.
And, if I may speak for a race of people, we just want it to stop. Being profiled is a hurdle we’ve faced in our struggle for freedom and dignity in this country since before we got here up until this very day. From the very start we generally were profiled as people it’s okay to mess with (and “mess” ain’t the four-letter word I really want to use here).
Hey, when slave traders saw us, we fit the profile they were looking for: sturdy looking black people with good teeth and strong flexible muscles that could adjust to all the lifting and hauling and picking and hoeing and raking and digging we were to do and all the positions they were to put us in, in order for us to do it.
Then came a decree saying that we were free and we were quickly profiled as folks to be subjected to a host of “can’ts”: can’t eat here, can’t drink at that fountain over there, can’t swim down the street or skate at the rink or sit on the first floor of the picture show…
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