NAACP demands the end of racial profiling

The Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. riots happened over 10 years ago, the civil rights movement took place around 40 years ago, and the Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago, so it seems police would know by now not to treat suspects differently based on the color of their skin. Not so, according to the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Members say there are still far too many accounts of people being pulled over for “driving while black,” then unduly harassed by a system that treats race as evidence.

Sacramentan Donald Venerable Jr. was fatally shot last February in South Sacramento while unarmed, simply because police thought he might be holding a gun. Laguna Creek High School senior Orintheo Swanigan was beaten, called a racial epithet and arrested on trumped-up charges, just for mouthing off to an officer. These are just two local examples of what the NAACP claims are many cases statewide where innocent blacks and Latinos have been targeted and wronged by law enforcement, all with dubious explanations from the police officers involved.

Despite the proliferation of the term “racial profiling” in recent years by politicians and the media, NAACP leaders say there has been little change, only rhetoric exchanged, between civil rights groups and law enforcement. “We supported the bill Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh proposed, to collect data on who is being arrested and why, but the governor blocked it, and it didn’t even make it off the Assembly floor,” said Alice Huffman, the president of the California NAACP. “Why don’t they want us to see that data so it can be exposed and properly analyzed?”

The NAACP held a unity rally for about 100 supporters on the Capitol steps Monday, June 18, to call for more accountability in law enforcement. Sacramento Councilwoman Lauren Hammond demanded that, “the Venerable shooting and the Swanigan arrest be the last of the incidents.” Her statement was met with voluble support from the crowd.

Forget Boyz N the Hood. The boys in blue aren’t Crips, they’re cops. “My biggest fear as a father,” said James Shelby, of the Sacramento Urban League, “is having my son shot down by law enforcement.”

“As long as our young men are treated like they are nothing, and harassed like criminals, you know there is something wrong,” said NAACP member and Sacramento resident Gerri White. “We’re not going to just bow our heads and let our children think that this is just the way it is.”

Alice Huffman was disappointed with the turnout at the rally, but she still believes it was successful. She said, “We got people’s attention. The whole point was to let people know that just because we have pigmentation in our skin, we still have a right to hold cell phones or wallets without being shot. Law enforcement does not have more right to life than anyone else. And just because we come from poorer areas doesn’t make us criminals.”

The point was made several times that this is not a problem with all or even a majority of police officers, but simply a few that sully the reputation of their profession.