They may not want to admit it, but something around here stinks of racism
Have you heard that latin phrase, excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta (he who excuses himself, accuses himself)? Well, it neatly sums up this incident in Florida when two white police officers decided to stop a car driven by a black woman. Only after the officers had approached the car and the lady had pulled down her window did the police recognise who it was.
The woman was Aramis Ayala, the only black state attorney in Florida. The agents immediately recognised her after checking her ID and asking what agency she worked with.
From this point on, the tone changed. The officers struggle to offer some kind of justification that might explain why they’ve arbitrarily pulled Ayala over. And the excuses come so thick and fast that the whole thing starts to look increasingly suspicious.
‘We ran the tag, I’ve never seen it before with a Florida tag, it didn’t come back to anything, so that’s the reason for the stop,’ one officer says. She doesn’t look too convinced about their motives. ‘And what was the tag run for?’, she inquires. The officers says that it’s a routine way to check whether a car has been stolen.
Ayala smiles ironically and the tension in the air is palpable: from her body language you can easily tell she doesn’t believe him and that she knows this is an act of racism. Quite simply, she’s been stopped for being black. And it seems to be no coincidence that they checked her license plate, specifically.
And the officers’ justifications for the incident don’t stop there: ‘Also, the windows are really dark. I don’t have a tint measure, but that’s another reason for the stop,’ they say.
She looks at them in disbelief. Ayala has since confirmed that her tinted windows comply with legislation in Florida.
The situation is resolved in a rather tense fashion: the officers, when asked for their ID cards, reply that they don’t have them to hand, and one of them writes down their names in a notebook.
Despite the police confirming that the stop could not be considered illegal, Ayala explained to The Independent that she would be happy to sit down and have an open dialogue with the police department chief about what happened. ‘My goal is to have a constructive and mutually respectful relationship between law enforcement and the community.’
On social networks, many people from the Afro-American community have shown their support for the attorney and spoken about their own experiences of police abuse and racism. The fact is that, although such a procedure is considered ‘legal’, it is still arbitrary and has implicit racial connotations that cannot be ignored.
A Facebook user wrote this comment: ‘If it had been a poor black woman and not the attorney, then she would have been shot and murdered.’ The message isn’t really that outlandish: the black community in the US is subjected to constant humiliation and violence.
The website Mapping Police Violence keeps a tally of the number of black people killed by the police each year. There were 309 black deaths in 2016, and 160 black people have been killed so far in 2017.