Marcus Hayes sees the flashing lights in his rear view mirror. He hadn’t run a red light or made an illegal turn. He checks the odometer to reassure himself that he’s traveling within the speed limit.
The officer asks for license and registration. Marcus reveals that he is legally carrying a gun and reaches for his gun license.
In less than a minute, chaos ensues, and Marcus lies still, dying, his body is hunched over the steering wheel in a pool of blood.
What went wrong? Was Marcus targeted by an officer who singled out the black motorist for driving through a white neighborhood?
The officer claimed Marcus and his wife fit the description of two individuals who robbed a Burger King earlier that evening. The officer maintained he was reacting not to the couples’ race but to the fact that the man had a gun.
The above scenario summarizes my latest novel, Betrayal in Black; it also presents a compelling argument that racial profiling still exists in this country.
If a white, middle-aged white man reached into his pocket to retrieve what the officer asked for, would the officer instantly experience fear? When a black man with dreads reaches into his pocket, the officer panics. Why?
Racial profiling is a term that describes the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials and others who target individuals for suspicion of crime based on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. Police officers may target people of color without evidence of criminal activity because of certain assumptions and biases – explicit or implicit – about black men. This is commonly referred to as “driving while black.”
America is, and has been since its birth, in a state of perpetual, cultural racism. As much as we hope and attempt to be otherwise, we are not yet a post-racial society; blacks are still being treated differently than their white peers.
Someday, the country may relegate racism to the pages of history. To do so, we must change the way we feel and think and what we say and do. We must express outrage over incidents like the one depicted in Betrayal in Black. We must work to destroy perceptions that people of color are, somehow, inferior or dangerous. We must conduct ourselves as, and raise our children to be, responsible citizens who won’t tolerate racism and bigotry. Until we embrace our cultural and religious differences, America will never truly be the land of the free. For those and many other reasons, I wrote Betrayal in Black.