On a Saturday afternoon while waiting for a friend, I noticed this scenario. Picture this. Three attractive, well known, professional young men together conversing with one another. These men are well known because of their accomplishments. Each of them graduated from an accredited university with no less than a masters degree. Each of them managed to obtain employment in their career choice that requires them to attend their separate Monday through Friday, nine to five jobs wearing a suit and tie. Each of them are also fortunate enough to own a foreign luxury car. But what makes each of these young men so well known and respected around the neighborhood is the fact that each of these men are founders of a charity in which they help people with disabilities and children from impoverished backgrounds. And on their free time? These men trade in the three piece suits and ties for more relaxing outerwear to spend time at home with their wives and children. These three men may also come together at times for conversation and to compare their busy schedules with one another.
Now picture this. This same group of attractive, well known, professional black young men conversing on a street corner in Brooklyn. They have each traded in their three piece suits, cuff links and ties for sweatpants and jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps, and Nikes. They are now having a friendly conversation, in front of their luxury cars, discussing their busy schedules of the past week, while looking forward to getting back to their homes where their family is waiting for them. Suddenly, these men are startled when a police squad car approaches them; sirens blaring, and comes to a screeching halt right in front of them. Two white officers jump out and forcefully pushes these three professional men against a concrete wall. The three men demand from the officers an explanation as to what is going on only to be told by the officers, “SHUT UP. RANDOM SEARCH AND YOU BETTER COOPERATE IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YA’”. Angered, the three young men reluctantly continue to let the officers search them. The officers became visibly frustrated when they did not find anything incriminating on these men and said, “OK. I KNOW YOU BOYS ARE DRUG DEALERS FROM THE CARS YOU GOT. I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE WEED, JUST TELL US WHERE THE CRACK AND GUNS ARE AT.” These same professional young men strongly denied all of the allegations and insinuations made by the officers. One of the professional men went so far as to show him his identification card from his place of employment. Without further explanation, the officers then told these “boys” to calm down, returned to their squad cars and drove off without an arrest being made or a citation given out.
Unfortunately, the situation presently described is not the first of its kind nor will it be the last time to happen. This situation is infuriating, demoralizing and insulting. I believe this occurrence with the three black men is a prime example of harassment based upon skin color, outwardly appearance and preformed stereotypes. The white officers made an assumption based upon physical appearance of these African American men. If these same men had been of white ethnicity conversing on a street corner in the Upper West Side in front of a Starbucks, there’s a high probability they would not have been asked for guns and crack by a police officer. The scenario previously described is a prime example of the social oppression and marginalization of a minority group (African Americans) by an authoritative figure who happens to be a part of the majority group ( white police officer). This act was nothing short of discrimination, prejudice, and a form of institutionalized inequality; which is how Omni and Witant defined racism. This occurrence with the young black men is nothing less than perpetuation of institutional racism on a social level. And it is sad to say, but very true in today’s society, that most black men are not only accustomed to this treatment by a police officer because of past experiences of racial profiling, but they somewhat expect this treatment to occur. Is this to be considered a social norm and/or hegemony in today’s society? And if so, does that mean that the nihilistic threat proposed by Dubois will continue to grow and fester and prove to be self- destructive as predicted? These are questions to keep into awareness when we witness or contribute to situations such as the one previously described.