Neil deGrasse Tyson Reveals His Experiences With Racial Profiling and Police

July 14th 2016

Taylor Bell

In light of the recent police shootings, beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson posted his own troubling experiences dealing with law enforcement as a successful black man.


On Tuesday, Tyson shared an except from his 2004 book “The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist” in a Facebook post, the Wrap reports. It detailed some of his racially driven encounters with police officers.

He recalls the time he was attending a conference for the National Society of Black Physicists Society in 1991 when he and his coworkers began exchanging stories about the times they were pulled over for seemingly unexplainable reasons.

"There was the time I was stopped late at night at an underpass on an empty road in New Jersey for having changed lanes without signaling," Tyson wrote. "He went on to say that the “real reason” why he stopped me was because my car’s license plates were much newer and shinier than the 17-year old Ford that I was driving. The officer was just making sure that neither the car nor the plates were stolen."

Tyson was also often stopped by security while heading into work.

"In total, I was stopped two or three times by other security officers while entering physics buildings, but was never stopped entering the campus gym."

According to Tyson he had "a dozen" similar encounters.

After Tyson and his colleagues shared stories, they wondered how such intellectual and accomplished black physicists could attract so much attention from law enforcement.

"How could this assembly of highly educated scientists, each in possession of a PhD — the highest academic degree in the land — be so vulnerable to police inquiry in their lives? Maybe the police cued on something else. Maybe it was the color of our skin."

Neil Degrasse Tyson

They reasoned that race inevitably played a part.

"The conference I had been attending was the 23rd meeting of the National Society of Black Physicists. We were guilty not of DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), but of other violations none of us knew were on the books: DWB (Driving While Black), WWB (Walking While Black), and of course, JBB (Just Being Black)."

His post comes just days the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men believed to be gunned down by police officers unnecessarily based on the color of their skin.

[h/t The Wrap]