By now you've probably heard about the horrible incident that occurred in a Queens neighborhood last weekend. A young black man and two of his friends were the victims of a horrific police shooting. The details are still sketchy, but what is known is that after leaving a strip club where he was celebrating his bachelor party, 24-year old Sean Bell and two friends got into his car. He then allegedly ran his car twice into a minivan holding plain-clothes police officers. What happened next is unclear, but when the smoke cleared, Bell was dead, his two friends wounded and 50 gunshots had been fired from the police. Bell and his friends were unarmed.
Of course everyone is in shock and angry. Amadou Diallo immediately comes to mind. Why is this still happening? Black men can't be in the streets without being targeted as criminals and gunned down like animals? Racial profiling seems to be alive and well despite the painful lessons of the past. BUT, what happens when the guilty officers are Black, White and Latino? Did the White guy make the others pull the trigger? Can Black people be accused of racial profiling against their own race? Do Latinos profile Blacks the same way Whites do?
There is no doubt that 50 rounds of ammunition on unarmed suspects is excessive. The New York Times has an article today that addresses that issue. NYT Article .
But getting back to the issue of racial profiling. When we seek to address the problem, we have to ask, who is really guilty of that sin? It's obviously not just Whitey. Black people know Black people are capable of some heinous crimes. And my Latino brethren know their peoples can be down with the dirt as well. And let's not leave out the Asians, the Native Americans and big bad Whitey himself. The point is, we all profile. I'd be lying if I didn't say I experience a moment of panic when I see an Osama Bin Laden look-alike on my airplane post 9-11. It is a feeling I am ashamed of and try to vanquish. I berate myself for sinking so low and try to imagine how that person must feel or better yet, what they might be thinking of my chocolate face and nappy hair. But I can only imagine what I'd do if I had a uniform and a weapon and I could act on my fears.
How do we heal those fears? Nobody is without them and our police officers are just people like you and me. Only they have that uniform and the gun.
I hope this doesn't sound like I'm promoting racial profiling. I'm not. I've been the victim of racial profiling in airports and on the streets and it sucks and is degrading and humiliating. I'm just pointing out that when you think you're going to die, your fears fly first. How do we calm those fears? How do we make them go away? Maybe it begins when we can all collectively put down our weapons. When we stop treating life so carelessly. Wishful thinking I know. But it has to begin somewhere.