‘Driving while Black’ is more than just a saying

Driving while Black is more than just a saying

Ronel Ghidey

art by Erin Barchet
One evening years ago  in Quincy, Illinois, a young Lee Franklin, who is now a studies teacher at RBHS, was driving to a movie with a date in his friend’s car when he was pulled over by a policeman.
“[The cop] said that I didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign. When he later asked for my license and proof of insurance, my friend’s insurance was expired so I called him and he later came with that proof of insurance. But at this point the cop said he wouldn’t take it,” Franklin said. “He then made us get out of the car and at this point he ransacked it, with the clear intention of trying to find something, but didn’t. Regardless, I was still arrested and taken downtown and kept there for a while and was later released after a few hours. This was the first time.”  
Franklin’s story isn’t an uncommon one. Numerous statistics and reports from places like the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) show that in America, minorities are usually targeted more by the police as a form of racial profiling. But to most, it’s just something people say, or something that they believe doesn’t happen where they live.
But even in Missouri, statistics from a report by the Missouri Attorney General’s website shows that African Americans are pulled over more often than other ethnic groups. According to the Vehicle Stops Report by Missouri’s Attorney General, in comparison to other ethnic groups, African Americans are pulled over  at least three times more.
Contrary to popular belief, RBHS resource officer Keisha Edwards says that some of these statistics are circumstantial.
“If you’re in a predominantly black neighborhood, then you’re going to pull over mostly black people, and if you’re in a Hispanic neighborhood, than you’re more likely to pull over more Hispanics,” Edwards said. “So that’s why sometimes I would prefer to look at state numbers because the statistics can sometimes be skewed because if the area you work in is a predominantly black area, than that means you’re gonna pull over more black than you are white, and does that mean [you’re] racially profiling someone because of the dynamics of your beat?”
However, in regard to “dynamics,” the U.S. Census Bureau states that 79 percent of the 115,000 people who live in Columbia, are strictly white.
Regardless of the cops “beat,” meaning the territory they monitor, the majority of people pulled over are African Americans. Statistics like the studies from Arizona from its 2008 Vehicle Stops Report states that this happens mostly because being black puts people at the disposition to commit crime, so police officers will usually use this disposition as evidence against black drivers.
Senior Alexxa Hill says that in our society today, it’s not uncommon for black people to be marginalized by the police.
“In my own experience, I’ve been pulled over and have received some rude comments regarding my age and my economical status, in regards to the car that I drive, but never about my race,” Hill said. “Although I don’t believe it to be as common as some say, I do think that some police officers target African Americans, and that it’s an issue that our country as a whole is still having a problem dealing with.”

But in the end, it all comes down to personal experience. Some people haven’t experienced and issues with the police and others have had multiple encounters. 
“I knew some kids at my school who would always speed and always drove recklessly,” Franklin recalls. “You just have to be lucky.” 
Have you ever felt persecuted because of your appearance?