Driving While Black Essays

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Ultimately, the Governor’s hand was forced by the racist remarks of Col.

Carl Williams, the head of the New Jersey state police.

In October of 1997, a black man named Shawn Lee and his girlfriend were stopped by the California Highway Patrol on Interstate 15. A similar kind of racial typing is evident up the coast in supposedly liberal Santa Monica.

Lee, a member of the San Diego Chargers football team, and his girlfriend were handcuffed and held by police for more than an hour. In the fall of 1996, a pair of police cars tailed Darryl Hicks and George Washington, two black men, as they pulled into the parking garage of their hotel.

Now these racist theories have pervaded the policing system of the United States from coast-to-coast.

To be a black driver in America is to invite police scrutiny, as thousands are daily singled out for groundless pull-overs, “pretext” stops, and subjected to intrusive, warrantless searches and abusive treatment by police.Criminology has had these genetic typing obsessions as far back as eugenicists such as Cesare Lombroso, who attempted to define criminal types through head shapes and other physical characteristics.Particularly influential in the US was Earnest Albert Hooten, a Harvard professor of anthropology and appalling racist who published The American Criminal in 1939.Responding to a report showing that 75 percent of all motorists arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike in the first two months of 1997 were minorities, Williams told the Newark Star-Ledger that cocaine and marijuana traffickers were most likely to be either black or Hispanic. The investigation of his Department was put into the hands of Attorney General Peter Verniero, who has fiercely denied that New Jersey cops use profiling.Black leaders in New Jersey demanded that Verniero’s investigation be taken up by an independent panel.The trooper said he had pulled Smith over because he had three antennas on the back of his car.A similar incident occurred in Orange County, Florida.The trooper was unaware that Smith was a sergeant in the Carmel city police department and the sedan he was driving was actually an unmarked police car.Smith was ordered out of his car and, according to Smith, the trooper appeared to be “shocked and surprised” when he saw that Smith was wearing his police uniform.The issue of racial profiling by police briefly grabbed the attention of the press in June of 1999 when New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman fired the head of the state police after he accused blacks and Hispanics of being more likely to be drug dealers and therefore deserving of heightened police scrutiny.Whitman earned glowing coverage for her swift action.


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