Dealing with the American police

11026368_10204795873031352_968020919_n“I live in North Carolina, a place where every black person is very aware that you’re looked at as a criminal or a potential criminal,” said Traline DeMon Spencer, who is currently living and working in North Carolina.

“So when I do get stopped I say “yes sir no sir”, I don’t make any sudden movements that could make them think I’m trying to reach a weapon.”

Racial profiling is real in the US nowadays according to statistics. President Obama has also admitted in public that the problem exists.

Traline mentions that he has been a victim of racial profiling by the police many times. He recalls the first time.

He was still a senior high school student when his father bought him an Audi as a present. As he explains, him driving his new car to school was more than enough to catch one of his teachers’ attention.

“She asked me how could I afford such a nice car and I basically told her to mind her own business. The very next day I got called to the principal’s office.” The assistant principal and a police officer were waiting there for Traline. They informed him that they had to search his car, as they had received a tip saying that Traline might be carrying drugs.

“I was scared. They told me they needed my keys and my permission to search my car. I said yes because I was scared. I had to sit in the principal’s office while they took a drug dog and went through my car. I knew I didn’t have anything to hide but still, I felt sick like I had done something wrong.”

Traline mentions that he had never got into trouble as a student, so for him it was clear from the beginning that the police wanted to search his car just because he is black. “At that time I had never even seen pot before. I didn’t even know what it looked like. My dad was a minister, so my sister and I were very sheltered in that way.”

The police found nothing in his car and he was allowed to return to his classes. However Traline was still very upset.

“I thought it was funny that my white friend Brad got a BMW a few weeks before I got my Audi and no one ever questioned him or suspected that he was a drug dealer.”

A few days later the principal apologized to Traline for what happened that day.

Nevertheless, he explains that after many similar incidents that happened to him he has lost his faith in the police.

“I don’t feel like police are there to protect me. I feel like they are there to find a way to arrest me or harass me. All of my white friends are being treated by the police in a different way.”

Traline says that he does his best to avoid dealing with the police. This does not mean that he is not frustrated by the way the police treat him.  He has to hide it, however, when he gets stopped by a police officer, as he acknowledges that getting upset it won’t make the interaction any better.

Despite the fact that he has found a way to deal with racial profiling he is not optimistic about the future regarding this social problem.

“I don’t see how we can fix a problem when they don’t see a problem at all. Until police departments and police unions and law enforcement admit it’s a problem, it will never get better. Right now only a few of them acknowledge that racial profiling does happen.”

For him only higher placed governmental agencies could force a change at the moment, since the police keep denying that there is a problem.

“There was a study commissioned in Michigan to look into racial profiling to see if it was a real problem or not. When the results came back officers couldn’t believe that they were racially profiling. I guess they thought black people were lying all this time when we’ve been trying to get their attention about racial profiling.”

 

Even now that a black president is in charge of the U.S., for Traline the time for change concerning racial profiling has not come yet.

“President Obama has spoken numerous times about addressing this problem, but he hasn’t proposed any legislation that will properly address it yet. If Obama lets this issue slide past him I think it will be one of his biggest regrets leaving office. He has been president for some years now but he didn’t do anything.”

figure3_perc_cum_stopsEven though Traline is pessimistic about the future he does not consider that moving to another place could be a solution to his own problems at the moment.

“I don’t think moving would change things much. I moved to Ft Lauderdale after graduation and really liked it there. However, racial profiling isn’t just an issue in southern states. It’s everywhere.  But, I do worry about how my kids would be treated if I decide to have some.”

 

By Valia Papadopoulou

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