Billboards along Eight Mile Road in the area of Detroit are warning Black motorists that they’re in a “Racial Profiling Zone” and asking them to share their own experiences with driving while Black. You already know that white conservatives are going to get all in their feelings about this—just as they did when similar billboards were put up in Livonia, Mich., last year—but the fact is, there are millions of Black people across the country who have enough racial profiling stories to fill a library and, maybe, just maybe, it’s a welcome gesture for them to see public displays that acknowledge the issue.
Fox 2 Detroit reports that so far three billboards have gone up that read, “Warning: Racial Profiling Zone,” ask motorists to “share your story” and includes a phone number, Twitter handle and Facebook page for the Racial Profiling Across Eight Mile Committee. Two additional billboards are set to go up next month.
WXYZ 7 interviewed drivers in the area as well as the Hazel Park police chief, and, well, at least one person takes issue with the billboard campaign—I’ll let you guess who.
“It’s definitely a problem, Candace Anderson, a Black resident who supports the billboards, told WXYZ. “You can have a license and still won’t feel comfortable because you know you probably will be pulled over and harassed. The billboard is needed and there should be more. You’re completely not welcome and they make sure you know that.”
A white resident also told the station that his “African American friends don’t want to come over because they don’t want to get pulled over, and racially profiled,” and that “It’s about time they put a spotlight on it.”
But because cops have a tendency to think their little blue feelings should trump the lived experiences of Black people, Hazel Park’s police chief doesn’t appreciate the initiative and has taken the typical white-people approach to discussing the issue, which is essentially to say: If I don’t see the racism, then it must not exist.
From WXYZ 7:
“I’m very disappointed,” said Hazel Park police chief Brian Bucholz. “I believe our officers are treating people fairly. We need the trust of the community for us to be effective in what we do. We cannot tell who’s driving that car at 500 feet away, using the technology we have to enforce speeding violations.”
During a demonstration, a Hazel Park officer also showed us someone driving more than 700 feet away, who was speeding at a distance creating a limited view of the driver.
See, this is why so many Black people hate cops. I’m sure that Bucholz understands that cops clocking the speed of motorists from 500 or 700 feet away aren’t the only cops on the road. Speed traps don’t represent the only circumstances under which drivers get pulled over and there are plenty of officers on the road who are driving close enough to identify a motorist by race. I’m sure he also understands that, even if all of that weren’t the case, racial profiling isn’t limited to the reason a person gets stopped; it can also happen after the officer realizes the person they pulled over is Black. There are plenty of instances where Blackness serves as unofficial probable cause for cops who, then, only need to find (or imagine) actual probable cause to search a vehicle.
Either way, Bucholz, like other white people, isn’t in a position to say whether it happens or not as he is not part of the target audience for racial profiling.
Anyway, despite the inevitable flow of white tears, the organization said it plans to continue with its campaign and will be putting up more billboards throughout the year.