Dorothy Bland, an African-American woman in Texas said she was stopped for walking while black in her own neighborhood. She then made the claim that it’s a crime to walk while black in some jurisdictions.
This is what she wrote:
Flashing lights and sirens from a police vehicle interrupted a routine Saturday morning walk in my golf-course community in Corinth.
I often walk about 3 miles near daybreak as part of my daily exercise. However, on Oct. 24, I delayed my walk until late morning as I waited for the rain to stop. I was dressed in a gray hooded “Boston” sweatshirt, black leggings, white socks, plus black-and-white Nike running shoes. Like most African-Americans, I am familiar with the phrase “driving while black,” but was I really being stopped for walking on the street in my own neighborhood?
Yes. In the words of Sal Ruibal, “Walking while black is a crime in many jurisdictions. May God have mercy on our nation.
It gets more intense with her saying the cops wouldn’t even tell her why she was stopped. She mentioned her “hoodie”. Note the comment about the dog.
Knowing that the police officers are typically armed with guns and are a lot bigger than my 5 feet, 4 inches, I had no interest in my life’s story playing out like Trayvon Martin’s death. I stopped and asked the two officers if there was a problem; I don’t remember getting a decent answer before one of the officers asked me where I lived and for identification.
I remember saying something like, “Around the corner. This is my neighborhood, and I’m a taxpayer who pays a lot of taxes.” As for the I.D. question, how many Americans typically carry I.D. with them on their morning walk? Do you realize I bought the hoodie I was wearing after completing the Harvard University Institute for Management and Leadership in Education in 2014? Do you realize I have hosted gatherings for family, friends, faculty, staff and students in my home? Not once was a police officer called. To those officers, my education or property-owner status didn’t matter. One officer captured my address and date of birth.
I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood. I told the police I didn’t like to walk in the rain, and one of them told me, “My dog doesn’t like to walk in the rain.” Ouch!
I didn’t have my I.D., but I did have my iPhone, so I took a picture of the two police officers and the Texas license plate. One of the officers told me I should walk on the sidewalk or the other side of the street for safety’s sake.
There’s more. To complete her victimhood, she brought up the cases of blacks who died in police custody and said she took the officers photos and put them on Facebook for safety’s sake. It’s racial profiling, she said.
Although I am not related to Sandra Bland, I thought about her, Freddie Gray and the dozens of others who have died while in police custody. For safety’s sake, I posted the photo of the officers on Facebook, and within hours, more than 100 Facebook friends spread the news from New York to California.
“You are now in the company of Henry Louis Gates and others with the same experience,” wrote one of my former students from Florida. “We must stop racial profiling.”
For anyone who doesn’t think racial profiling happens, I can assure you it does happen. For a sanity check, I stopped by the mayor’s house and asked him, “Do I look like a criminal?” Mayor Bill Heidemann said no and shook his head in disbelief. I appreciate the mayor being a good neighbor, but why should he need to verify that I am not a menace to society?
I refuse to let this incident ruin my life. As I was finishing my walk and listening to Urban Praise radio, I encountered an elderly white woman who asked if I would like some roses. She gave me a half-dozen roses. It was a random act of kindness and that’s why I call Janet Herbison of Gemini Peach and Rose Farm in Denton a good Samaritan. That evening I had dinner with neighbors.
She ended thusly, even proudly including her personal information and pontificating from a high moral platform.
The more often we talk and get to know people as humans, the stronger we will become as a nation. We are all part of the human race.
Dorothy Bland is the dean of the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism and the director for the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Reach her at email@example.com.
This was published in The Dallas Morning News on the 28th and that paper gave the police a chance to respond. It was updated on the 29th.
As it turns out, the officers stopped her out of fear for her safety. She was walking in the road on the wrong side of the street wearing earbuds completely unaware a pickup truck directly behind her had to come to almost a complete stop to avoid hitting her. The police told her to walk on the other side and explained that they were concerned about her safety as they took her information. She was also impeding traffic which is a Class C misdemeanor which is why they took her information – it’s merely routine practice.
Ms. Bland never contacted the police department to voice her concerns regarding this encounter and had not returned the Chief’s phone message.
Ms. Bland put the officers information up on Facebook and has since taken it down. The Chief ended with this:
The citizens of Corinth as a whole are a highly educated population, and it is disappointing that one of our residents would attempt to make this a racial issue when clearly it is not.
Debra Walthall is Corinth’s chief of police. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don’t believe the Chief, watch the video and ask yourself how many more of these phony victims are out there. Oh, and by the way, the photos of the officers are no longer on her page but neither is an apology and she’s a DEAN! An instructor in JOURNALISM churning out youth who hear these stories!