After Oscar, after Trayvon...

Racial profiling is a focal point for activists, some of whom have lost loved ones, triggering calls for overdue reforms

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Rev. Malcolm Byrd, pastor of First A.M.E. Zion Church in San Francisco, wore a hoodie to make a point about racial profiling.
PHOTO BY JUSTIN BENTTINEN

rebecca@sfbg.com

Even before Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson picked up the phone on Feb. 27, 2012, he wasn't having an easy day. His nephew, Oscar Grant, would have celebrated his 26th birthday on that date if he had not been killed by a gunshot wound on Jan. 1, 2009.

Grant was shot by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle while lying face down on a train platform, an incident that was caught on film, prompted riots in Oakland, drew international scrutiny, and became the subject of the award-winning film Fruitvale Station by Oakland filmmaker Ryan Coogler.

In the years since Grant's death, Johnson and his wife, Beatrice X, founded the Oscar Grant Foundation to develop a support network for families who've lost loved ones due to police violence. It was his involvement in this work that led Johnson to be contacted that day, and informed that a 17-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin had been gunned down in Florida one day earlier.

It wasn't a police shooting but nevertheless, "We knew at this point that we had to go to Florida," Johnson recalled. "What we've decided is that whenever a family experienced that, we would definitely try and get to them."

Fast forward to July 13, almost exactly three years after violent protests erupted in Oakland following the news that Mehserle, who was charged with second degree murder, had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter instead. A new wave of demonstrations flared up as word spread that George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Martin, had been acquitted.

"We weren't surprised," Johnson, who returned to Florida last month to observe the jury selection process for Zimmerman's trial, told the Guardian. "But it was still painful."

The verdict in this high-profile case has brought discussions about racial profiling and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system to the forefront. Even President Barack Obama touched on the theme in comments to White House reporters on July 19, saying, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

At the national level, new findings on "implicit bias" — unconscious prejudices that research in psychology has shown can persist in individuals (including poorly trained police officers), even if they consciously reject racial stereotypes — has started to inform policy debates around racial profiling.

"Policy needs to recognize that implicit bias exists," Maya Wiley, founder and president of the New York City-based Center for Social Inclusion, told us. "Rep. John Conyers introduced a bill last year to prohibit racial profiling in law enforcement. That bill, if made law, would collect data on stops by race, as well as provide resources for training. That is a step in the right direction."

But things get complicated, Wiley says, because "research shows that people of color, women, the elderly, may all experience discrimination as a result of implicit bias. There is no remedy in the law for this. ... I think what is important now is to fight Stand Your Ground Laws which empower people to act on their implicit biases."

At a July 16 rally held on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, Rev. Malcolm Byrd, pastor of San Francisco's First A.M.E. Zion Church, illustrated his point about racial profiling by donning a hoodie and sneakers at the rally.

"I wanted to come looking suspicious," he explained. "I wanted to give you an image that America has of young black men. I look suspicious. This is my country. I love my country. Yet, I look suspicious."

Last year, Mayor Ed Lee's proposal to introduce a stop-and-frisk policy, which would have allowed police officers to randomly stop individuals who appeared to be suspicious in an effort to get weapons off the streets, was abandoned in the face of widespread community concern.

Comments

crime, many of which were suffered at the hands of black criminals.

When black-on-white violence is running at 41 times the rate of white-on-black violence, as it is according to FBI stats, it seems to clear to me who we need to really be helping here.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 4:48 am

Black people are the primary beneficiaries of SYG laws. Criminals will be the beneficiaries of overturning them as you propose. Good work, progressives

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 7:34 am

white victims of black crime. They believe that will assuage their misguided guilt over slavery and segregation - something nobody who is alive today had any part in creating.

Political correctness ran amuck.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 7:51 am

despite your residency in fantasy land.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

Nobody who was an adult back then is under 70 now.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

No poverty, no hunger, either.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:17 am

You understand the difference, right?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:21 am
Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:44 am

You just meant the tendency for different races and economic classes to choose to congregate together?

Got it.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 9:14 am
Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 9:25 am

Except for where people voluntarily segregate themselves.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 2:01 am

David Campos ran for office he claimed to have "desegregated"San Francisco schools, I wondered why anyone would elect someone that is 90 years old to office.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

Which SF is one of the few cities to still do that. And probably nothing does more to drive families out of the city, not to mention cause masses of un-necessary commuting.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

One word, Asshole.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:01 am

Just sayin'

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 6:29 am

Stand Your Ground is a misnomer. The proper name should be: Kill a Nigger With Impunity. Strange fruit, indeed!!!

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/07/23/george-zimmerman-vs-marissa-alexander-is-...

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

People keep bringing up Marissa Alexander but have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. She tried to use the stand your ground defense but it didn't apply in her case. Here's why: she went to her ex's house to pick some stuff up when she thought he wasn't home. But he was and they got into an argument. She went OUTSIDE to her car, got her gun, came BACK into the house and fired a shot into the wall behind him which ricocheted into the ceiling. SYG doesn't apply because she left the scene, retrieved a gun, and returned to the scene. If she had her gun on her during the initial confrontation THEN SYG would apply.

A lot of people also are saying that she unfairly got 20 years and it's because she's Black. No, it's because Florida has mandatory minimum sentencing when it comes to gun crime. In Florida if you fire a weapon during the commission of certain felonies (in this case aggravated assault) it is an AUTOMATIC 20 year sentence. There is no judicial discretion when it comes to sentencing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

when a white vigilante kills a nigger with impunity on a public street.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

Blah blah blah. Typical. Can't argue on facts so make it a racial issue. That or call the other person a racist.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

May God keep your family safe so you won't have to feel the pain that the writers on this blog are attempting to express.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:12 am

casing neighborhoods, loitering suspiciously and starting fights on trains.

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 6:30 am

When white people are in the neighborhood, they're just... there. When black people do the same thing, they're "loitering suspiciously" and "casing neighborhoods."

Posted by Greg on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 7:16 am

innocent looking black kids. It's more about attitude, dress, furtiveness, evasivesness - it's not hard to figure out who is up to no good.

It may be that blacks behave more like that than whites, but that's merely contingent.

Instead of constantly pointing fingers at whites and cops, why aren't you doing what Bill Cosby is doing and telling blacks to stop blaming whites and instead get their own house in order?

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 7:25 am

If white people wore hoodies and black people wore suits and ties, then the white racist establishment would start to see suits and ties as "suspicious."

Seriously, there's nothing inherently suspicious about an article of clothing. Actually, come to thing about it, a suit and tie is more suspicious in the present context. Nobody in a hoodie ever crashed the economy, or took away anybody's home, or blew up a neighborhood and murdered several people. The real criminals wear suits and ties.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 8:16 am

garment of choice for people who wish to avoid being seen on CCTV. That, rather obviously, is more of a concern for those considering the commission of a crime than those who are not.

Some malls have actually outlawed the wearing of hoodies

More generally there are all kinds of correlations between modes of dress and types of crime. And, as you note, white collar crime is more likely to be done by white males wearing suits. If you accept that, why not accept that there might also be a correlation between say, muggings and gangsta gear?

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 8:35 am

Multitudes of people I know wear hoodies for no other reason than the fact that they like hoodies. It just happens to be a fashion among young people.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 9:27 am

(or especially when) the weather is clement. It's hardly a radical idea that hoodies correlate with crime:

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-hoodie-fashion-trend-criminal-uniform-now-11...

And they have been banned in some places including your precious Europe:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4561399.stm

While from the hopelessly liberal UK Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/09/power-of-the-hoodie

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 9:46 am

So... some mall in the UK, in 2004, banned hoodies (along with baseball caps and swearing), in an (undoubtedly vain) effort to curb "anti-social" behavior, whatever that means. Well, I'll tell you what it means. It means behavior that old people don't like... such as wearing fashions that they don't understand. I can see a bunch of old guys with their pants pulled up past their bellies sitting around on some park bench saying, "Yep. Good for them. Those young'uns shouldn't be out past 8 anyway. Back in my day, I used to walk ten miles through the snow, and if my pappy caught me with so much as a speck on my uniform, I'd get a whippin I'd never forget. Spare the rod, spoil the child, that's what I say."

So some old mall owner is just as biased as Zimmerman. Shouldn't surprise anyone.

I love the fact that the same guy who on another thread waxes poetic about what a mainstream Democrat he is, and then calls a milquetoast paper like the UK Guardian "hopelessly liberal."

Posted by Greg on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

Do you think that might seem like a good idea to someone on the run or intent on committing a crime?

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

Well....if your white and walking down the street in a black neighborhood, or the barrio for that matter, the locals assume you are there to score sex or drugs.

Profiling goes both ways.

Posted by pete moss on Jul. 28, 2013 @ 7:09 am

You have the FACTS wrong also. I know them personally. You would benefit to be more impathetic and not so judgemental. At the end of the day .. she did not deserve to be sentenced to 20 yrs in prision. REALLY! Also segregation dies still exist. You would know if you experienced it. No its not blatenly allowed but just like racism... many people are still experiencing segregation... reword, play the system, & keep up your nasty cold insensitive foolishness. Its people like you that keep AMERICA with never ending injustices.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

Which facts did I get wrong? The part where she left the initial argument, left the house, went to her vehicle, retrieved her (legal) gun, came back into the house, and fired a shot into the wall? Or when I said that there is no judicial discretion when it comes to Florida crimes involving firearms?

You want to make this about race but it isn't. I agree that she doesn't deserve 20 years. But she got that sentence because of Florida laws that have mandatory sentencing when it comes to gun crimes not because she's black. Look up a man named Orville Lee Wollard. I'll save you the trouble. He's a man doing 20 years because he fired a gun inside his house to scare his daughter's boyfriend. Did he get that sentence because he's white? No. He got it because of Florida's gun laws in regards to sentencing of gun crimes.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

He was at her house... sbe is the nurse with an income and assets. She went to the garage. Shut up about what you don't even know.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:04 am

No.

She went to the house that she shared with her ex-husband when she thought he wasn't home. He didn't come to her house.

She wasn't a nurse. She worked payroll for a software company.

As for the garage issue. You get a half point. She went to her car which was inside the garage.

So out of a possible 3 points you got 1/2. Before you tell people to shut up about what you THINK they don't know, you should do a little research so you don't come across looking like an ignorant dumb ass.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

Those thoughts lead to actions. The man was face down and handcuffed and the BART police officer without hesitation fired his gun on instinct. There should be a focus on inclusion and addressing these serious issues to prevent these tragedies from happening.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

Jesus. You people really need to stop saying that Oscar Grant was handcuffed when he was shot. Even the Fruitvale movie continues to propagate this myth. He was handcuffed AFTER he was shot. Even Grant's family, lawyers, and actual witnesses all agree on this.

And if Grant wasn't resisting arrest (probably because he knew that his arrest would lead to his parole being violated and he'd have to go back to prison) he wouldn't have been shot or tasered. Notice none of his friends who were arrested with him was shot, tasered, or pepper sprayed. Why do you think that is?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

Which makes little sense when the other guy has a gun.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

Hmmm?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 am

and had black friends. He was also half hispanic and half Jewish. On what planet would that make him a racist?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:23 am

Earth.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:45 am

The reality of listening to him profile Trayvon on that 911 recording. We didn't say it. He did. He spoke exactly what he thought. He had no reason to even follow...stalk that young man, get out of his safe warm VEHICLE to put his poor wimply black loving women... silly self in HARMS WAY. Go figure? What intellegent.... concerned for safety.... fearful of "these thugs" idiot does that?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:10 am

It's interesting how progressives process these things. Two idiots cross paths and one ends up dead, the bigger idiot of the two should have stayed in his car of course.

The significance of this episode has all of their racialist theories torturously strung together. Not agreeing with this studied progressive strung together George Wallace era racialist mish mash is a bizarre sign of stupidity and racism in others.

Nothing makes the progressive happier than some arbitrary mayhem that they can get self righteous about and spin out their J E Hoover like theories.

Thug culture causes far more mayhem and is far worse for everyone involved, this elicits barely a peep from the progressives. The bay Guardian even gives good reviews to the worst thuggy rapper non sense that is easily as stupid as any white pride band.

Bay Guardian progressives celebrate the worst of culture, bemoan the state of culture and then claim moral authority at various times when it suits their bereft RCP world view.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

this is your mind on drugs.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

You just uttered a one-line throwaway comment of no worth.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

is stupid.

Anyone with first hand dealings with progressives will note that the defense mechanisms kick in at the first sign of trouble.

Let me try again.

Two idiots meet up and one gets killed in a single event, it is an example somehow that everything is societies fault and everyone and everything is racist.

Endless and almost daily mayhem in certain areas is also societies fault, but we reserve the right to cheer the people who promote this aspect of society/culture. American culture and society suck, but we progressives think thug culture is cool.

Progressives get to have it every way, because the culprit every time is some nameless and nebulous entity.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

than it is some extremely poor writing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

Matlock actually developed arguments and made observations - something you seem incapable of doing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 11:05 pm
Yup

Like the true believer right, progressives get to have it every way that works to their advantage this minute.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 28, 2013 @ 10:13 am

Sorry, everyone, that's it for now. Come to our forum tonight (Wed/31) or send a letter to news@sfbg.com if you want to comment further this week. http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/07/25/calling-all-trolls-youll-have-co...

Posted by steven on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 8:20 am