Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About Racial Profiling

'Driving While Black'

An African American government employee is stopped four times in a single month while driving home. One of the stops involves at least four police cars. His "infraction"? An alleged illegal lane change. He asks, "Would a white man in my same position accept this as normal? Why should I have to accept it as normal?"

An African American night security guard, the frequent target of such traffic stops, says, "I live a simple life. I go to work, and I come home. I don't drink or do drugs or sell drugs. I don't like being harassed. I didn't do anything wrong. What really is the problem? This is happening for no other reason than the color of my skin."

An African American minister is pulled over while driving home from Sunday service, in full view of many of his parishioners. He is forced to complete a field sobriety test. When he asks why he has been pulled over, he is told simply, "You swerved."

Confront the bias, later. Police officers hold a lot of power, and arguing with them in the moment generally won't serve you well. While anger and frustration are normal and reasonable responses to racial profiling, strive for calmness.

Inquire and document. Ask why you've been stopped. Ask for the officer's badge number. Note the identification numbers on the police car. Write down every detail you can immediately after the incident.

Lodge a formal complaint. Each time an unnecessary stop occurs, use official procedures to file a grievance. Community relations divisions inside police departments often are the best place to start.

Create an alliance. Reach out to friends and family who also experience racial profiling. Ask them to commit to filing complaints at each offense, too. Keep records of everyone's experiences. Also seek help from supportive community groups.

Raise awareness. Contact the media and ask for coverage of the issue. Provide names and contact information of people willing to talk about their experiences.