"For Asking A Question, Officers Grabbed Me, Threw Me on the Ground, and Beat Me"

November 25th 2014

ATTN: Staff

In the wake of Ferguson, racial profiling and discriminatory policing practices are in the national political narrative.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Justice Statistics, black drivers are twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested during a traffic stop. A study from Florida State University also found that white police officers "were statistically more likely to let armed white suspects slip while shooting unarmed black suspects." But for millions of young black men in America like Nate Howard, these statistics are more than disturbing data points, they are personal. As Nate details in this newly released video for Yahoo and Attn, he's been consistently stereotyped his whole life. His dreads and backwards hat attracted campus police while he was a college student on an educational scholarship; and when questioning police about their treatment of his friend after graduating, he was thrown on the ground and beaten.

As Nate says, "I could be angry and upset or I could focus my energy on changing the game." And he has committed himself to the latter. As we learned in Ferguson, there were only three black officers on their 53-member force-- roughly 6% of the police in a town that’s over 60% black. The National Black Police Association suggests that diversifying police forces from top to bottom is the best way to enhance racial sensitivity and prevent future cases like Mike Brown's or Nate's. Nate also discusses how 20 states do not explicitly prohibit police from racial profiling, and that programs such as New York City's "Stop and Frisk" have disproportionately targeted more young black men than the total amount who live in the city.

However, there is federal legislation to help curb racist policing practices. The End Racial Profiling Act, sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (MI) and Senator Ben Cardin (MD), would train federal law enforcement officials on racial profiling issues, collect data on all investigative activities of the Department of Justice, and require the attorney general to make periodic reports assessing the nature of discriminatory policing in America.

As Congressman Conyers said upon introducing his legislation, “decades ago, in the face of shocking violence, the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation made it clear that race should not affect the treatment of an individual American under the law. I believe that thousands of pedestrian and traffic stops of innocent minorities and the killing of innocent teen calls for a similar federal response. The practice of using race as a criterion in law enforcement undermines the progress we have made toward racial equality."

To learn more about what you can do to take action, please visit this piece we posted shortly after Mike Brown's death: Real Change after Ferguson: What We Can Do.