Lincoln Anthony Blades is deeply troubled by the belief that Black folks are somehow complicit in their own racial profiling.
Yesterday I saw the above YouTube video of Philadelphia police racially-profiling two young Black men. The encounter brought back a lot of negative feelings for me because I’m extremely familiar with the cops arbitrarily stopping me because there was a POSSIBILITY that I MIGHT fit the description of a perp on the loose. I’ve been detained, had my time obstructed, and suffered physical abuse at the hands of police officers who felt an intense desire to embarrass, violate, and belittle me based on nothing more than my outward appearance.
The experience is so intrusive and left me feeling so helpless and left an indelible mark on my psyche for the rest of my life. But, surprisingly, that’s NOT the worst part of being stopped and frisked because it unfortunately becomes expected and somewhat predictable. But the only thing worse than being racially-profiled is having non-Blacks berate you for not acting cordial enough when your rights are viciously violated right in your face.
When I saw the video, I scrolled down to the comments section to read what other people thought of the clip. I expected to see paragraphs full of outrage written by people who couldn’t believe what they were seeing or people who were sick and tired of having to witness the same BS day in, day out. But the comment section was filled with a very familiar refrain that makes my stomach turn every time I hear it ooze out of a non-Black person’s mouth: “Those guys deserved what they got for acting belligerent.”
The reason that sentiment troubles me so deeply is because it’s predicated on the belief that Black folks are somehow complicit in their own racial profiling. It’s almost as if we ask for it just by “daring” to have Black skin, so when we’re eventually pressed by the police on what we’re up to, we should know how to react with grace and absolutely zero primal rage. Now I’m the first person to state that Black people need to be smart when dealing with the police, because acting up can take an uncomfortable situation to a potentially deadly one, but this notion that I need to be polite in the face of overt discrimination is troubling as hell.
The main reason it’s so disturbing is some non-Blacks (i.e. Caucasians) will NEVER have to deal with the stress of being racially-profiled, yet they want to tell all Blacks how they should conduct themselves in a situation where their rights are being trampled. And what truly makes those individuals comments so ridiculous is the reality that most Black people are harassed more than once in their lives by an enforcement agency. The reason the Black men in that video were so surly is they both have been through that type of encounter with the police before (I’ll bet everything I own on it). They weren’t “nice” right from the beginning of the clip because they knew exactly what was about to happen to them. They were going to have their rights walked all over by the very same institution sworn to protect them.
Look, if you saw that video and your first thought is “damn, those guys don’t need to be so rude!”, then you clearly have a lot to learn about the true nature of race politics in modern western civilization. Let’s stop asking young Blacks to take their daily harassment with a Coke and a smile, and start advocating that the police discontinue their prejudicial practices of violating the rights of young men and women based on the color of their skin.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site ThisIsYourConscience.com, he’s an author of the book “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer” and a weekly contributor for UPTOWN Magazine. He can be reached via Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at This Is Your Conscience.
AP photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari