Now this is the third run-in with east Texas that I’ve noticed.
The first was Jasper, Texas.
We all remember Jasper, Texas, the hometown of James Byrd, a black man who was dragged to death by John William King, and two other white men back in 1998. And having friends from Texas, they had informed me that there were certain town to be careful of driving through. Then on a more personal note, my cousin from Houston had advised my family on a road trip down there to be careful of one of those small towns like Corrigan or something because of a speeding ticket.
Now, I need to tell my dad next time they go to Houston, maybe they want to take the long way through Dallas as opposed to taking U.S. Highway 59 south out of Marshall.
Check out this following story (and here’s the link for all interested parties):
TENAHA, Texas— You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas-Louisiana border if you’re African-American, but you might not be able to drive out of it—at least not with your car, your cash, your jewelry or other valuables.
That’s because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: voluntarily sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes…
Officials in Tenaha, situated along a heavily traveled highway connecting Houston with popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, say they are engaged in a battle against drug trafficking and call the search-and-seizure practice a legitimate use of the state’s asset-forfeiture law. That law permits local police agencies to keep drug money and other property used in the commission of a crime and add the proceeds to their budgets.
Yes, you read it correctly. And if you’re up on your critical thinking skills, yup, all this stuff is perfectly legal–for the most part. What it amounts to is a loophole in the law. Because of this asset-forfeiture law crap, the police are pulling over people for speeding, improper lane change and all other kinds of nonsense that small towns have been doing for years trying to bring in revenue, and then searching the cars and then accusing them of extortion.
The property seizures are not just happening in Tenaha. In southern parts of Texas near the Mexican border, for example, Hispanics allege that they are being singled out.
According to a prominent state legislator, police agencies across Texas are wielding the asset-forfeiture law more aggressively to supplement their shrinking operating budgets.
“If used properly, it’s a good law-enforcement tool to see that crime doesn’t pay,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee. “But in this instance, where people are being pulled over and their property is taken with no charges filed and no convictions, I think that’s theft.”
David Guillory, an attorney in Nacogdoches who filed the federal lawsuit, said he combed through Shelby County court records from 2006 to 2008 and discovered nearly 200 cases in which Tenaha police seized cash and property from motorists. In about 50 of the cases, suspects were charged with drug possession.
But in 147 others, Guillory said the court records showed, police seized cash, jewelry, cell phones and sometimes even automobiles from motorists but never found any contraband or charged them with any crime. Of those, Guillory said he managed to contact 40 of the motorists directly—and discovered all but one of them were black.
“The whole thing is disproportionately targeted toward minorities, particularly African-Americans,” Guillory said. “None of these people have been charged with a crime, none were engaged in anything that looked criminal. The sole factor is that they had something that looked valuable.”
In some cases, police used the fact that motorists were carrying large amounts of cash as evidence that they must have been involved in laundering drug money, even though Guillory said each of the drivers he contacted could account for where the money had come from and why they were carrying it—such as for a gambling trip to Shreveport, La., or to purchase a used car from a private seller.
Once the motorists were detained, the police and the local Shelby County district attorney quickly drew up legal papers presenting them with an option: waive their rights to their cash and property or face felony charges for crimes such as money laundering—and the prospect of having to hire a lawyer and return to Shelby County multiple times to attend court sessions to contest the charges.
The article went on to say that this practice was so routine that the police department had pre-signed and pre-notarized affidavits with blank spaces left for the police officer to sign and for the property seized to be described.
Well, this is the ultimate problem: the Mayberry’s of America have always needed revenue, and this economy isn’t helping. I mean damn, City Hall can’t even pay to get their own windows repaired–that’s a sad state of affairs. As a result of this dearth of revenue most small towns give out moving violations and call it a day. There’s always the few instances where the one town sets of the speed traps or hides the stop sign by the world’s biggest tree and always catches the out-of-towners that go flying through, but this takes extortion to the next level.
It’s one thing to pull over and get janked for your earnings at the casino in Shreveport, but then once you realize that racial profiling has played a part into it makes this just unconscionable.
Jennifer Boatright, her husband and two young children—a mixed-race family—were traveling from Houston to visit relatives in east Texas in April 2007 when Tenaha police pulled them over, alleging that they were driving in a left-turn lane.
After searching the car, the officers discovered what Boatright said was a gift for her sister: a small, unused glass pipe made for smoking marijuana. Although they found no drugs or other contraband, the police seized $6,037 that Boatright said the family was carrying to purchase a used car—and then threatened to turn their children, ages 10 and 1, over to Child Protective Services if the couple didn’t agree to sign over their right to their cash.
“It was give them the money or they were taking our kids,” Boatright said. “They suggested that we never bring it up again. We figured we better give them our cash and get the hell out of there.”
And this would have still been egregiously out of order had this been an all-white family.
Seriously, after watching “Lakeview Terrace” with Samuel L. Jackson, my fear for the police as a black male is heightened even more. I already get the little nervous twitch when I see a cop in my rearview mirror. I’ve only been pulled over one time, and that was more or less a legitimate pull over back in Chicago, but I was treated well and with respect and I’m not even sure if I told my parents about that one. But, that was the only time while I was driving.
Perhaps the “Fisk University Alumni” license plate holder has done its job.
But, I was pulled over with my friend sometime last year up in Cobb County headed toward the IHOP on Cobb Parkway and God Almightly we got a through search. When I’m nervous I usually pull out my cell phone to text, and I had gotten hella nervous because I saw the second cop standing outside more or less monitoring me. I didn’t want to pull it out, because last time that happened in Chicago, a black female cop shot and killed another black female thinking it was a gun. When the cop had asked my friend to step out the car and had then asked me to step out the car, I’m sure he just knew I at least had a nickel sack on me because I had on baggy jeans, a track jacket and a fitted.
This was all on being pulled over because the light over his license plate was hanging too low.
I mean we both rolled our eyes at that because it was totally bogus, the license plate light was just fine. They probably just saw the Florida tags and went with it.
And of course they didn’t find anything.
I think what was the supreme insult was that they continued to do a thorough search of the car including trunk after they had already asked us what we do and we told them we were both in a Master’s program. I kept quiet for the whole ordeal, because I was fully prepared to go to Cobb County jail and the next day call Al Sharpton and make the biggest deal in the world about it and at least get the officers suspended. I’m a perfect candidate: no record, get good grades, black male in a masters program–and a seminary at that–oh yes, I’d get something out of the deal.
Let’s be clear: President Barack Obama never made the claim about this being a post-racial America. That was the political machination of some dummy Democrats, aloof Liberals and the majority of the rest of self-professed white, conservative America. All this media talk of “Obama and a post-racial America” is a bunch of bull$#!^ and most of us know it. We can’t have a post-racial America when instances like this are still grabbing national attention, and moreover, worthy of national attention. I mean SERIOUSLY people, this happens day in and day out across this country. In the midst of police shootings–such as in Oakland and last December in Bellaire outside of Houston, Texas of a baseball player, we need to recognize that the battle is far from being over, and the war is not finished.
Hopefully Attorney General Eric Holder won’t be caught sleeping at the wheel on this one.
Leave you’re thoughts and comments down below. Do you feel that this is a clear cut case of racial profiling, or were the cops merely just preying on the innocent and helpless, who just happened to be non-white?
One thought on “East Texas Needs to Get It Together: Racial Profiling Still Exists”
I’m an average white guy from Longview, TX. Your piece above was brilliantly written. I have several close black friends who have given me quite an education on the realities of this neck of the woods. You are dead right with your characterization of both East TX and of the so-called “post-racial America.” That may be the case elsewhere, but it sure isn’t the case here…where folks still proudly fly the Confederate flag in their front yards. I really hate ignorance.