Police and Racial Profiling: The Great American Tragedy

  • 01/08/2015
  • Reporters Desk

By John R. Gray, Guest Columnist

Several folks approached me about the seeming proliferation of young Afro-American men being killed by white police officers.

To begin it is a horrible tragic situation for the victim’s family, and perhaps, the police officers involved.  We all should feel pain when any family loses a child unnecessarily to some holocaust-like misunderstanding of judgment, intent or motive, leading to an urban combat death.

But, for young Afro-American males, there is concern about what we all know of as the imperfect world. Part of the imperfect world is the caveat of racial profiling, which has emerged as another one of America’s unsolvable problems.  Doctor, doctor, “Who do we call?” How about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Save your energy don’t call Attorney General Eric Holder. He is the most hated person in the American criminal justice.

Let’s face the truth. If you are an Afro-American male in the United States, you have been racially profiled, or can expect to be in your lifetime. Racial profiling is an indignity, it’s disrespectful, but it will be overcome.  At its worst, it is surely no cause to martyr ones self.  It is just that simple.  My statements regarding racial profiling comes as a result of life and professional experience.  As a California state parole agent I had frequent, direct, contact with rank and file police officers.  I accepted that 100 percent of white officers and 99 percent of Afro-American officers do not believe racial profiling exist. It is just a myth. Profiling is seen as good police work, no more than predicting who will win the Lakers game. So what’s the problem? The problem is predisposed fear.  Fear generated by the assumption that young, Afro-American males do not show you enough respect. Thus, they do not fear police authority; therefore, they are more dangerous than others.  Remember that standard police officer mantra: I was in fear of my life.

The essential point of fact is young Afro-American men are being killed.  The matter of culpability is ostensibly mute.  No criminal charge will be filed against the officer, because like in pro football games a challenge, to a ruling, requires god-like undisputable evidence for a call to be changed.  So, guess what?  God-like evidence is needed to prosecute a sworn officer.  Of course, this will be of little solace to a grieving family.

In an attempt at fairness we know young white men jeopardize their lives with harrowing misconduct.  But to compare him to an Afro-American youngster is like apples and milk.  The simple fact is that the young Afro-male will draw strict scrutiny when he is on the street. The young Afro-male, cannot act out, to draw attention to him.  The symbiosis is set. Predisposed fear has been attached. He may be armed or clearly unarmed. He will be confronted by an officer and in a perfect exhibition of valor, or at some throat gagging confluence of confusion, another young Afro-male will bite the dust.  Does that sound like the same old Hollywood documentary film set?  It will be titled, what else but: An American Tragedy.

Upon the young man’s serious injury or loss of life, the officer will go home and the victim’s family to the hospital or local mortuary.  The very Rev. Al Sharpton will be called to protest and he will have a nominal influence overall that has occurred.  No winners hand will be raised.  All will settle down to be recognized as a repeat of an ongoing American tragedy.  I readily admit I live in fear every time my grandsons leave my home. I guess they are perceived as dangerous, but they are not. They are good-hearted, have jobs, go to college, play football and are fun. It may not matter because racial profiling does not recognize a good heart, having a job or playing football.  Racial profiling connects to fear. Therefore, will it be fight or flight?  Of course, the officer is not paid to retreat.

Young Afro-American men must be aware of that when they are stopped by the police because of what is defined as good police work or what is believed to be racial profiling. Do not make what will be called a furtive move. You are going to lose. Yeah, I know all about dignity. I have a little. Young men you must totally get into natures message, which is to survive. Your family does not deserve to grieve.

Afro-American families, you know when your son needs to be given that talk.  Not “that” talk, the talk that says he has been adjudicated, declared and ruled to be dangerous. So be careful out there.  I was taught to always be around to give the talk.

John R. Gray is a lifetime resident of the Harbor Area. He has a criminology bachelor’s of science degree from the California State University Long Beach. He studied human behavior Chapman College. He is a certified correctional counselor.


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