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Lessons in Racial Profiling*


By Latasha Goodwyn

The Mid-South Tribune

and the

Black Information Highway

Memphis, TN - Every morning and every evening, and all through the day as I travel the city of Memphis the blues capital, the capital of the Delta one question pains the back of my mind: Is Memphis also the Capital of Racial Profiling?

 True, Memphis is no New York City, nor is it any Los Angeles, or Philadelphia, for that matter, and can’t even begin to get the exposure of these places, but profiling definitely exists here probably more prevalent than any of these other cities.

 In an area where the Civil Rights Movement began, and in the very city where Dr. King was assassinated, I can’t help but wonder was it all in vain. When the brave set of youngsters successfully integrated school systems, and lunch counters, they did it in hopes that one day their children would have a better future. Because of these people-- our people-- people that used to stand for something, we can drink at public water fountains, and our children can attend the infamous Memphis City Schools System, and if we’re lucky we can get on at FedEx. But can we drive down a street without being pulled over for a routine traffic stop, or because we fit the description of a criminal? And exactly what is the description of a criminal? Because if it’s a black man or woman, any of us could be pulled over at any time. Maybe that’s why we are.


Every day in my commute I see people on the side of the road. Some are having car trouble, some have just had wrecks, and some are handcuffed on the side of the road waiting for the police to get out of their car, get out of their trunk, and come from underneath their hoods (car hoods, and Klan hood). Now the first two scenarios happen to people of all races, everyone has car trouble, everyone has been involved in a wreck, but the last scenario only seems to happen to us. I have yet to see a white man or woman sitting on the curb while their car is internally destroyed. And every time I see this, my heart goes out to these people. And one hot afternoon when I was coming back from shopping, I myself joined the vast majority. I fit the description of a shoplifter. Never mind that I had receipts for all of my merchandise. Never mind that I have never stolen anything in my life. Never mind that I came from the same decent, hardworking, middle-class family as Kelly or Brad. Do mind, however, that I am a black woman. Enough said.

I challenge us, as a race to start standing for something again. If our parents and grandparents and great greats, could stand for something during a time when a dog in the streets, had more rights, so can we. Let’s pick up the torch where they left it 40 years ago. Racial profiling is against the law! And I’ll be the first to say “I don’t have to take it”! “I won’t take it”! “Let the struggle continue”!


*From 2003 Archives of The Mid-South Tribune.






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