Brandon J. Johnson: Racial profiling is a reality

07/30/2014 12:00 AM

07/29/2014 5:56 PM

It seems as if anytime people of color bring up racial disparities or blatant discrimination, others immediately push back by saying that we need to shut up, that profiling is imaginary or that we really do commit more crimes.

It is easy to say that a higher percentage of people of color commit crimes, but that is because people of color are being targeted for these offenses. Law enforcement is trained to find “criminal behaviors,” and wherever officers concentrate the majority of their time is where they will find these behaviors. If law enforcement spent the same quantities of time in areas of the city that lack diversity, more of those people who are also committing these crimes would be apprehended.

In a city that proclaims diversity, business associations that represent the future development of our city lack diversity in their staffs and board members. That lack of diversity and the perceived lack of concern for people of color have led to the creation of an African-American chamber of commerce and a Hispanic chamber of commerce.

The argument that we have a Wichita mayor and chief of police who are African-American is misguided when it comes to racial issues. I would point out that we also have an African-American president, yet the U.S. Supreme Court stripped the Voting Rights Act of its power. There also are continued pushes to repeal affirmative action, and unemployment among African-Americans is more than 10 percent.

The Eagle has reported on studies showing the racial disparity we face, and still many citizens deny there is a racial issue in our justice system, in law enforcement, in Wichita development and in our schools.

According to a recent study organized by the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, African-Americans and whites commit crimes at the same level, yet African-Americans see harsher penalties, fines, sentences and extended probationary periods. This remains the same for juveniles and adults.

I never smoked marijuana when I was younger. I never drank alcohol, sold drugs or was in a gang. Yet I have been racially profiled on four different occasions. I have had law enforcement follow me for several blocks riding my rear bumper. I have been arrested and accused of being a gang member after I was beaten by police.

I have seen racial profiling and experienced it. Many of my friends of color have as well. What to us is reality many consider a work of fiction.

If only you could walk a mile in my shoes.

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