My Mother, Stopped for Driving While Black

When the police pulled their guns on my mother, I reached for my phone and told her to be calm and do as they say.

My parents and I had just been swarmed by police cars, sirens blaring, as we drove on I-64 through Virginia. Shock and fear consumed my family as we came to a stop and were ordered out of the vehicle at gun point. A third car even showed up to stop traffic.

The officers then arrested my mother without any explanation. I felt helpless.

As I questioned the police about why they stopped us, a family of three just driving along and minding our own business, a passing white motorist stopped his car. He gave the police officers a thumbs-up and told them, “We support the great job you’re doing.”

I was stunned.

My parents sought asylum in the United States from Eritrea many years ago. We work hard and obey the rules. But that’s not enough. In a sad twist of fate, our family has stumbled into institutional injustice in a new form.

Eventually the arresting officer accused my mother both of going too slow and eluding his siren for 10 miles. Three police cars, guns, and handcuffs for my middle-aged mom, apparently for going too slow on a highway. Being too cautious seems to be yet another thing that can get you stopped for driving while black.

Two weeks later, police in Minnesota stopped Philando Castile for an alleged broken taillight. When Castile reached for his identification, he carefully told the cop his every move. To avoid any wrong assumptions, he explained that he had a license to carry a concealed weapon, which he had in the car.

Castile was then shot several times and killed. What was his crime? Is a broken taillight a reason to be shot? Is driving too slow a reason to be handcuffed at gunpoint, surrounded by three cop cars?

The mistreatment of black people by police officers isn’t new, nor is it surprising. According to the Justice Department, black people are almost four times more likely than whites to experience the use of force during police encounters.

Before Castile’s slaying by the St. Anthony Police Department, he’d been stopped by police over 50 times and acquired thousands of dollars in fines and fees. Castile’s mother had encouraged her son to complain about the police’s racial profiling. But like many black people, Castile chose not to.

Why bother reporting police harassment, they reason, to the very people who commit the assault?

During our eight-hour drive to Alleghany County Court, I remember being so confident that the judge would be on my mother’s side. The police had no evidence at all, and they’d plainly exposed my family to unnecessary emotional and financial hardship. Surely, the judge would see that.

I was wrong. Not only was my mother found guilty of both counts, they also revoked her driver’s license. Our lawyer refused to press our case, demurring, “I’m not in the business of suing police officers.”

We are but one of thousands of black families in America who are targeted, profiled, fined, incarcerated, and — as we saw with Castile — sometimes killed by unaccountable police officers and a justice system that supports them.

The American dream can’t be a reality if the very color of our skin makes us criminals in the eyes of the law.

The post My Mother, Stopped for Driving While Black appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Milen Mehari is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies for the Criminalization of Race and Poverty project.

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China Is Turning Its Fish Breeding Grounds Into Smartphone Factories – Mother Jones


Mother Jones
China Is Turning Its Fish Breeding Grounds Into Smartphone Factories
Mother Jones
Now wetlands destruction is threatening the nation's fisheries. No wonder it's looking elsewhere for food production, investing in farmland in … figure out that Africa is the next place for factories. No pesky regulations, check! Child labor, check

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Remembering “Harvest of Shame” – Mother Earth News

Remembering "Harvest of Shame"
Mother Earth News
Many of these scenes are far from pretty, children left unattended and uneducated while their parents go work in the fields all day harvesting vegetables and fruit for little pay, families of six living in their cars sleeping in the woods on the side

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This Glimpse Into Mexican Fruit and Vegetable Farms Is Heartbreaking – Mother Jones

This Glimpse Into Mexican Fruit and Vegetable Farms Is Heartbreaking
Mother Jones
That's how I how I found the above short documentary, Paying the Price: Migrant Workers in the Toxic Fields of Sinaloa, by the Mexico-based Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, a MacArthur-funded group that "defends the rights of the indigenous and poor …

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Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked – Mother Nature Network


Mother Nature Network
Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked
Mother Nature Network
As forests are destroyed, habitat lost and fisheries overexploited, those populations have to work harder/travel farther just to survive. Inevitably, some of them turn to other sources of income, and because of their low socioeconomic status, they are

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Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked – Mother Nature Network


Mother Nature Network
Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked
Mother Nature Network
As forests are destroyed, habitat lost and fisheries overexploited, those populations have to work harder/travel farther just to survive. Inevitably, some of them turn to other sources of income, and because of their low socioeconomic status, they are

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Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked – Mother Nature Network


Mother Nature Network
Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked
Mother Nature Network
As forests are destroyed, habitat lost and fisheries overexploited, those populations have to work harder/travel farther just to survive. Inevitably, some of them turn to other sources of income, and because of their low socioeconomic status, they are

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Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked – Mother Nature Network


Mother Nature Network
Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked
Mother Nature Network
As forests are destroyed, habitat lost and fisheries overexploited, those populations have to work harder/travel farther just to survive. Inevitably, some of them turn to other sources of income, and because of their low socioeconomic status, they are

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Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked – Mother Nature Network


Mother Nature Network
Why child labor and environmental destruction are intrinsically linked
Mother Nature Network
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Mother Earth News
Homesteading on the Cheap, Part 1: Finding Land
Mother Earth News
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