It is not in the head of black men folks
I am a father, a son, a husband, a brother, an engineer, a software developer, a host of several radio shows, an author, a blogger, a vlogger, a political activist, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a musician, and a black man. That last adjective to a large percentage of the police makes me a suspect. Sadly, I am a member of the #FitTheDescription hashtag/meme. I understand and feel Charles Belk’s pain. I expressed some of it in my piece “I was Trayvon Martin the day I came to America.”
But I digress. A copy of Charles Belk’s story is at the end of this post. In short, Charles Belk is a graduate of Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina, completed his BS degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California and received an MBA from Indiana University and a Executive Management Certificate from Harvard University School of Business.
On his way to put money in his parking meter he was arrested by several police officers. He was handcuffed tightly. He spent north of 6 hours in the Beverly Hill’s jail. Why? Because he fit the description of a tall bald black male who was possibly involved in a bank robbery.
He was not told why he was arrested. He was treated with disrespect as his pleas went ignored and unanswered. You see to the cops, he was not a person. He was a Black man.
Think about it. Would cops arrest the first blue-eyed blond White man that fit a description and was not acting suspiciously? Even if they did, would they be more careful and listen to his pleas to be sure they had the right person? How many stories have been heard of White criminals released just because the cops were not sure? The Beverly Hills cops did not even have the decency to validate his picture with available videos in the six hours he was held.
Charles Belk said generally he would have been running to the meter. A text turned out to be his angel. One knows a running Black man as a bank robbing suspect is likely a shot dead black man.
It is not only inner city pants sagging Black men that are harassed by law enforcement. It was easy for many to immediately feel comfort after Darren Wilson’s execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri because Brown was seen in a store video shoplifting and roughing up the store owner. How many consoled their guilt by assuming Michael Brown could have been a bad Black man and brought it on to himself – as if shoplifting was punishable by death.
It is time for Black men to go on the legal attack like Judge Jimmie L. Benton of Kingwood, Texas several years back. In America green has a way of speaking volumes. Here is Judge Benton’s story as explained in the Dallas Observer.
Late one night three and a half years ago in Kingwood, an affluent, newly annexed area far north of downtown Houston, a resident called police to complain about a black male running around wildly in his underpants and boots. An officer found the guy and flagged him over to the patrol car for a little chat. But the man refused and kept running. Two other officers showed up and demanded that the man talk to them. He refused again. They cuffed him and put him in the car. They demanded that he identify himself, and he refused to give his name, so they busted him for failure to ID.
When it was all sorted out, the man really hadn't been running around in his underwear. He was running around in his running shorts, T-shirt, and running shoes. He was in the area because he lived there. And he knew a lot about the law, because he was a federal judge.
Now for the pop quiz: In this particular real-life scenario in which an American citizen was arrested for failure to ID, which part of the situation did the cops get right?
You got it! He was, as the facts proved, black.
But here is the good news about Houston: Eventually the city attorney and the Houston police chief and the Houston City Council all stood up in the council chamber in front of the cameras, hiked up their trousers, raised a hand, and said, "My bad." Last November the Houston City Council agreed to pay federal immigration Judge Jimmie L. Benton, 46, damages of $55,000 for his wrongful arrest on a charge of failure to ID. An assistant chief of police told reporters, "They had reasonable cause to stop him, but they had no probable cause for arrest."
And Houston City Attorney Anthony Hall said, "The mere failure to identify yourself to a police officer is not an offense in this state."
Many smart Black men stay as far away from the justice system as possible. If they are roughed up by the cops, they let it slide. After-all, very few expect real justice even if they report it. Personally when stopped by the cops I am respectful whether respected or not. Fifteen minutes of discomfort is easier than hours of litigation that may go nowhere.
That said, it is time. Police treatment has not changed on its own and Ferguson and its thin blue line is sadly probative.
Here is Charles Belk’s story from
WHEN YOU "FIT THE DESCRIPTION"!
It’s one of those things that you hear about, but never think it would happen to you.
On Friday afternoon, August 22nd around 5:20pm, while innocently walking by myself from a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd, to my car up LaCienega Blvd my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Within seconds, I was detained and told to sit on the curb of the very busy street, during rush hour traffic.
Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb.
Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.
Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded…..All because I was mis-indentified as the wrong “tall, bald head, black male,” ... "fitting the description."
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn't matter if he's a "Taye Diggs BLACK", a "LL Cool J BLACK", or "a Drake BLACK"
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was an award nominated and awarding winning business professional, most recently being recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal at their Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards. They didn't need to because, they saw someone fitting the description.
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University (including a full Consortium Fellowship to business school) and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard Business School. Hey, I was "tall", "bald", a "male" and "black", so I fit the description.
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a Consultant for the NAACP, a film and tv producer, a previous VP of Marketing for a wireless application company, VP of Integrated Promotions for a marketing agency, ran Community Affairs for the Atlanta Hawks, was the Deputy Director of Olympic Village Operations for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, was a Test/Quality/Mfg Engineering Manager for IBM and was a Bond Trader on Wall street. Surely, folks that fit the description wouldn't qualify as any of those.
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that throughout my entire life I have been very active in serving the communities that I have lived in, including Chapter President and National PR Chair for NSBE, a USC Student Senator, a USC Trojan Knight, a USC Engineering Student Council Member, a USC Black Students Council Member, and a Resident Assistant; as well as a founding board member of the RTP NBMBAA, a member of Durham County Transportation Advisory Board, Durham City / County Planning Commission, Atlanta House of Love for the Homeless Board, Cobb County Transportation Advisory Board, Georgia CASA Board, United Way of Greater Atlanta VIP Selection Committee, Jomandi Theater Board, Silver Lake Film Festival Board, Downtown LA Film Festival Board, Chaka Khan Foundation Fundraising Dinner Committee, and the USC Black Alumni Association Board. Nawl, not a "black male", especially a "tall, bald" one.
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that just hours earlier, I was at one of the finest hotels in their city, handling celebrity talent at a Emmy Awards Gifting Suite, as part of business as usual, and, invited to attend a VIP Emmy pre-party that very night in their city. The guy doing that, just DON"T fit the description.
What I don’t get………WHAT I DON”T GET, is, why, during the 45 minutes that they had me on the curb, handcuffed in the sun, before they locked me up and took away my civil rights, that they could not simply review the ATM and bank’s HD video footage to clearly see that the “tall, bald headed, black male”… did not fit MY description.
Why, at 11:59pm (approximately 6 hours later), was the video footage reviewed only after my request to the Lead Detective for the Beverly Hills Police Department and an FBI Agent to do so, and, after being directly accused by another FBI Special Agent of “…going in and out of the bank several times complaining about the ATM Machine to cause a distraction…” thereby aiding in the armed robbery attempt of a bank that I never heard of, or ever been to; and within 10 minutes……10 MINUTES, my lawyer was told that I was being release because it was clear that it was not me.
The sad thing is, prior to my freedom being taken from me for an easily proven crime I did not commit, I was walking back to my car, by myself, because I needed to check my parking meter, so that I wouldn’t get a ticket and break the law. In fact, if it wasn’t for a text message that I was responding to, I would have actually been running up LaCienega Blvd when the first Beverly Hills Police Officer approached me. Running!
I want to thank GOD, Robin Lola Harrison of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, Robert Dowdy and Attorney Jaaye Person-Lynn , without whom, I am certain that I would still be locked up in the custody of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Based on comments made by a Beverly Hills Police Officer during my booking, and an FBI Special Agent, it appeared that they had tried and convicted me.
To everyone, especial black males (regardless of height, hair style or particular shade of "black") - Hari Williams, Michael Marcel, Reginald L Shaw, Shawn Carter Peterson, Devon Libran, Aaron D Spears, Cedric Sanders, Cornelius Smith Jr, Catfish Jean, Ashford Thomas, Drew McCaskill, Carlton Jordan, Jawn Murray, AS Lee, Bertrand L Roberson Sr, Deron Benjamin, Hawk Oau, James Alan Belk, Juhahn Jones, Darryl Dunning II, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Stephen Bishop, Logan Alexander, Brandon Dmico Anderson, Jon Covington, Lamar Stewart, David Mitchell, Gerald Andre Radford, Gerald Edwin Rush II, Gerald Yates, etal, - I have always stayed as far away from being on the wrong side of the law as much as possible; so please, be careful. If something like this can happen to ME, it can certainly happen to ANYONE!
Time has come for a change in the way OUR law enforcement officers "serve and protect" us.
We all do not, FIT THE DESCRIPTION.
Peace and Blessings..
While we all smile and have fun together, remember that every single one of your Black and Brown friends have a very different feeling and relationship with the police in general. Very few see them as the all good protector but instead they hope they are protected and not victimized in some form at some arbitrary time.
(h/t Jen Hayden)