Status Quo

Ferguson’s policing paradigm percolates in too many American cities with aggressive use of deadly force: A force similar to cancerous tumors before they metastasize and kill the body. Unfortunately watchdog agencies− immune system−in those cities have been compromised by latent racism.
Oncologists study tumors’ size, location, type, and stage of growth, before exercising options, like lawmakers should collect and review data before writing laws.

Sixteen years ago, California had the opportunity to collect data on police stops of African-American and Hispanic citizens with the passage of AB 1264, then commonly referred to as Driving While Black. Lawmakers requested people to submit their personal experiences in support of the bill. In part, I wrote then:

“I do not recall my car being stopped for racial reasons; however, the Oakland police very rudely stopped and questioned me while I was waiting for the bus. The police officer was proceeding north on Telegraph. He made an abrupt U-turn after passing me and then stopped in front of me at the bus stand. ‘Identify yourself nigger,’ he shouted upon exiting his car. By the time I produced identification, three other supporting police cars arrived. They left as fast as they arrived telling me, ‘You looked like someone else.’

“Their behavior was similar to that of racist red necks who chased and called me ‘nigger’ during the 1960s in rural Maryland. As an Oakland property owner I expect, no demand, that my tax dollars employ courteous public servants, not racists that use their official capacity to intimidate law-abiding citizens.”

Unfortunately, Governor Pete Wilson vetoed the bill, and his partial response included:

“AB 1264 is the product of a number of reports, both anecdotal and statistical, which provide evidence that African- American and
Hispanic citizens are subject to a disproportionate number of traffic stops.

This bill offers no certain or useful conclusion, assuredly nothing that would justify the major commitment of time, money, and manpower that this bill requires. The investment contemplated by AB 1264 could be more immediately and productively employed by enhancing officer training, encouraging dialogue between enforcement agencies and racially diverse community groups, and taking forceful action against those officers who abuse the privilege of serving all of
California’s citizens.”

AB 1264 could have helped identify the depth of racism’s complexity statewide, and potentially could have become a nexus for change in law enforcement’s broken profiling policies across America. Unfortunately, legacy leadership of denial, wait and do nothing prevailed, which has resulted in a local government punting their mess to the federal government’s justice department for action.

Hopefully, those young protesters in Ferguson will register to vote and organize around changing policing policies. Oh, I forgot. States are restricting voters’ rights in order to keep the status quo.

Let Ferguson become a cry for Change!

One Comment

  1. Thanks for your testimony Gerald. It can and has happened to too many of us: men, women and teens, stopped for breathing while Black.

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