‘Racial Profiling Zone’ Billboards Along Detroit’s 8 Mile Road Asks Motorists to ‘Share Your Story’

Illustration for article titled ‘Racial Profiling Zone’ Billboards Along Detroit’s 8 Mile Road Asks Motorists to ‘Share Your Story’
Image: generic image (Shutterstock)

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

feministonfire
FeministOnFire

HiBill, STFU. Being the first white man to comment on every post is NOT going to derail nor set the tone of the conversation. I’m making you my mission.

Commenters can hear the real from a Detroit, Michigan area driver here! All police in cities bordering Eight Mile consider themselves gatekeepers foe their cities and the suburbs in general. But it’s more insidious than just that. Police don’t need to be within 500 ft to know you’re LIKELY to be Black; they can play the averages. Set-up on a sidestreet to 8 Mile, look for unwashed, older cars, those with damage. Look for head shapes and hairstyles coming from one direction in the morning, another in afternoons depending upon retail shops where Blacks work & shop. After sundown, follow every car. Then pull out and run the plate; when it comes back to LaKeisha Jackson or LaQuan Williams, address in Detroit (or some Black suburb), make the pretense that they’re going 5 miles over the limit as the reason for the stop. Then, dependent upon whether they’re submissive and respectful enough to give you a woodie, Officer Friendly can decide to knock it down to 1 MPH over. That ‘favor’, for which he will definitely expect your smiling thanks, probably ensures you’ll just pay rather than fight the ticket and nets $60-75 for his city. It also psychologically strikes fear in Blacks not to pass thru that city because they will be pulled over, get a ticket and their insurance (THE HIGHEST IN THR NATION!) will go up past the $400-700/month we already pay!!!!!

All the white residents who pass him pulling your Black head over, smile as they speed by running the stop sign and continue the Blue Lives Lovefest knowing their property taxes have remained stable. Police virtually never get laid off or have their overtime denied. The city’s funding of the police is ‘symbolically’ returned to the General Fund when police go to Council to report they ‘Raised’ the same OR MORE revenue from the court systems tickets (which go to the County or State, usually). But this makes residents think they’re getting police service for free.

That’s how it worked when I saw it firsthand as a 911 operator running license plates that came back 95% Black in a 90% white city not quite on the border!