“Driving while black ain’t no joke!” former CNN achor T.J. Holmes tweeted yesterday, chronicling his experience being pulled over (so an officer could check to see if he had car insurance, Holmes said), and validating for many that racial profiling by law-enforcement officers exists and makes no exceptions for education, fame or success.
On MSNBC last night, he described the experience in more detail:
Holmes described himself as a “reluctant guest” because he “did not expect to be here documenting my experience.” He went on to explain that he was one-and-a-half miles from his driveway when stopped. “The officer had been following me for at least a mile, maybe even a couple, and he was following closely,” he described. “I knew something was up. I anticipated his lights coming on. Sure enough, they did.” …
Holmes then claimed that the officer said he stopped the former CNN host because “I want to make sure you have insurance on the car.” He went on to say that he tweeted his experience because “I was frustrated at the time. I have wondered if maybe I made a mistake, if I did something wrong by enflaming people’s emotions, by using the phrase ‘driving while black,'” he said of the media firestorm that resulted from his racially-tinged tweets.
Back in April, actor and director Tyler Perry had a similar response to an interaction with police that he feared would “take a turn for the worse” (although he admittedly made an illegal turn). He went straight to Facebook to chronicle the entire thing. And it’s clear that these high-profile black men aren’t the only ones having such experiences. A Justice Department study showed that police were much more likely to threaten and use force against black and Latino men than against whites, and non-white men were more likely to be searched and arrested.
Is Holmes right to worry about being inflammatory, or does it draw important attention to “driving while black” when public figures take to social networking channels to put a face with the phrase?