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'Driving while black' — and getting roughed up — still applies

A government study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics confirms what most blacks, particularly black men, already knew. Racism is not rapidly becoming an ugly memory when you’re on the road and the you see the blue flashing in your rear-view mirror. (AP):

Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.

Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.

…Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue. Minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions. Blacks in particular have complained of being pulled over for simply “driving while black.”

…Among all police-public contacts, force was used 1.6 percent of the time. But blacks (4.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.3 percent) were more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to be subjected to force or the threat of force by police officers.

People interviewed described police hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, pointing a gun or spraying pepper spray at them or threatening to do so. More than four of five felt the force used was excessive, but there were no statistically significant racial disparities among the people who felt that way.

I’ve not experienced “driving while black,” mostly likely because 1) I’m female, 2) the cars I have driven (’88 Mercury Tracer and a 2002 Focus station wagon) don’t suggest I’m driving a car that I “can’t afford” (black=poor to these racist clowns).

That said, I have had the pleasure of “shopping while black” (having a store owner follow me around, concerned I would shoplift, even when I was dressed up), and “hailing a cab while black” in NYC — having taxi after taxi pass me by until one of my white friends steps from the curb and one stops on a dime.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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