Being young and Black in America is a full-time job. It feels like every minute of your life, you’re on the clock, and your job is to be aware. You have to be aware at all times of your surroundings, your demeanor and how you’re being perceived, lest you be blindsided with instant criminalization while in the midst of the most basic and mundane activities—like shopping.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Three young Black men walk into a high-end retail outlet in some ritzy area in San Francisco, Calif. One of those Black men fit the description of someone brandishing a firearm in the store, according to the word of a single white man who called the police. Police officers run up on the unsuspecting shoppers with guns drawn, shouting expletives and ordering them to the ground. They handcuff their unarmed suspect. Leave him handcuffed for hours, find no gun and no truth to why they were called in the first place, and they eventually release their victims of wrongful detainment and expect the world to turn as normal because America refuses to recognize trauma as it applies to young Black men.
Fox 2 reports that the three friends from Oakland who were shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco, have accused officers with the San Francisco Police Department of racial profiling after they were detained for hours because, apparently, it takes cops a long-ass time to determine whether three men standing right in front of them and complying with their orders are armed or not.
Greg Peirson—the Black man with long locs wearing all Black who the cops said fit the description of their suspect, like Peirson doesn’t also fit the description of millions of young Black men you might see walking the streets of any major city—told Fox 2 that after they’d been in the store for less than half an hour, the police came in and shouted, “Hey, you three, get the fuck down on the ground!”
“That’s a scary thing to have my life in somebody else’s hands like that,” Peirson said. “Especially being innocent.
In cell phone video shared with the network, one man can be heard asking an officer, “Why are we still here?” while Peirson sat handcuffed on the floor and visibly frustrated.
Peirson called the incident a clear case of “racial profiling” and said that the cops wouldn’t have treated them so aggressively if they weren’t Black. They were reportedly detained for more than two hours without a single weapon being uncovered.
The cops and the police department, per usual, don’t feel anything was done wrong. According to a statement from the department shared with Fox 2, the officers “acted according to policy when responding to a report of a person brandishing a firearm.”
You’ll have to forgive Black people if we’re too busy collectively rolling our eyes into the back of our heads to be able to see the cops’ side on this.
“They jumped to the conclusion...it’s three Black men upstairs...they have a gun,” Peirson said.
Peirson also mentioned that he’s a regular customer at the store and he would be easily recognized by employees, and he wonders if the police even bothered verifying things with anyone before running up in a retail store like they were storming an El Chapo hideout.
He said they should have been sure about what they were walking into “for the safety of everyone else because you don’t even know if this call is true.”
Here’s the wild part (because unfortunately, so far nothing out of the ordinary has happened in this story): In police body-cam video shared with Fox 2, the white man who called the police in the first place can be seen sitting on the ground in handcuffs. Police said he “acted aggressively when officers were talking to the three men,” Fox 2 reports. He was cited for obstructing a police investigation and promptly released. (So I guess it wasn’t that wild.)
The three men—who said they plan to file a lawsuit against the department behind the incident—said the cops treated them far more aggressively than they did the aggressive 911 caller.