Here is an account of racism experienced by a group of travellers to the Jena Six protest in Jena a few months ago (it was emailed to me).
I had the pleasure and duty to attend this rally. I hope that we all
understand the importance of our attention to the injustices that are
at work in our criminal justice system and the nation at large. Some
may view the disparate treatment of African-American males as an
African-American problem. From unequal treatment in restaurants, to questionable negotiation processes in the financial realm, inappropriate lunch and cocktail hour conversations, to my most recent en counter with our ugly American past this Wednesday night on the way to the rally in Jena, Louisiana… There are many places in America where justice, fairness and equality are not blind. I’ve been profiled many times before, but this one is worth telling. To the two men that were there with me that night, we became more than friends that night. I’m proud to have been there with them.
TYLERTOWN, MISSISSIPPI WELCOMES JENA 6 SUPPORTERS BACK TO 1957
At approximately 1130 PM, September 19, 2007, my friends (Charles Reeves and Anthony Payne) and I found ourselves on the side of the road outside the town of Tylertown, Mississippi. After riding for a short while behind the squad car that emerged from the wooded roadside, he pulled behind us and promptly turned on his lights and siren. There was no question that we were driving lawfully, as we were driving on cruise control, five miles under the speed limit. Ironically, we had chosen to do this to avoid being pulled over on the notorious stretch of Mississippi road known as “Bloody 98”.
His first question as he approached the car: Do you all have
His second question: So… Where are ya’ll headed? After I responded
that we were headed to Vidalia (a town thirty miles from Jena,
Louisiana where we had hotel reservations), he continued to ask several questions regarding Vidalia. Not one related to my registration, driving or a potential traffic violation. But instead:
Officer 1: “So, what are you going to do in Vidalia?”
MTF: “I’m going to Comfort Suites in Vidalia.”
Officer 1: “Is that it, just going to a hotel?”, “There’s nothing to do in Vidalia, is that all you’re going there for?”, “You have any friends or family there?”
MTF: (cutting him off) “I’m going to a hotel in Vidalia.”
Officer 1: “So, really, Vidalia, you going anywhere else?”, “Can you step outside to the back of the car please”
The conversation continued at the back of the car. Fog lights blared
in my face as I became increasingly angry and antagonistic. My friends are still in the car with fog lights beaming into the back of the car. After several refused attempts to get me to answer something other than “I’m going to a hotel in Vidalia”, he moved to my vehicle.
Officer 1: “So, are you aware that my computer shows that your
tag is expired?”
MTF: “No it is not. I have the registration, decals and you’re welcome to run it. Do you mind telling me what the problem is?”
Officer 1: “Well, maybe my computer’s wrong. But you were swerving back there did you know that?”
MTF: “I don’t believe that I was, but I can’t say anything about that. Do you want to tell me what the problem is?”
Officer 1: “Ok. Give me a minute. I’m just conducting my investigation.”
He returned to his car and came back.
Officer 1: “Do you have any drugs or illegal items in the car?”
MTF: “No, I don’t. I don’t keep illegal items in my car. I’m an attorney. I don’t keep any illegal items on my person or in
my car. I have a bar card if you would like to see that as well”
Officer 1: “Really? What law school did you go to?
MTF: “Howard University School of Law”
Officer 1: “Do you mind if I search your car?”
MTF: “As a matter of fact I do. No you cannot.” Continue reading