By Edgar Estrada
With recent racial profiling and police brutality cases resonating across the Internet and airwaves since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this past August, people of color are on edge. Wait–they always have been, especially brown and black male youth. According to a recent Gallup Poll, one of every four black men under the age of 35 believed they had been treated unfairly within the last 30 days by police officers. Confrontation with law enforcers—such as Trayvon Martin in Florida and recently, Darrien Hunt in Saratoga Springs, Utah—have recently garnered national attention, giving the idea that police brutality has just now become a regular occurrence. However, that is not the case. Social media and smart phones now expedite the distribution of short video and audio clips and evidence of such acts, implying that it is now more prevalent, as if this type of treatment has not been occurring years before. Local encounters between ethnic youth and law enforcement, in the case of Sergio Martinez and Israel Corrales, provide such evidence of common racial profiling and stereotyping.
“We were driving a blue, older looking, Ford truck. I heard and “Aw shit” and see cop lights through the side view mirrors,” said Sergio Martinez, 19-year-old Hispanic. Along with his brother, Mario Martinez, Sergio was heading home close to midnight from a family party they had gone to. Sergio and his brother were driving home alone since they had decided to do so earlier that day. “We got stopped and my brother gets asked questions,” he stated. “We eventually got taken out of our car, searched, and sat on the curb.” The cops then began looking through Mario’s car in search for…“evidence”. “You’re embarrassing us, you have us sitting on the curb in front of this restaurant as if we were criminals,” he said. “ I never even gave you permission to search my car.” After realizing they would leave empty handed, the cops decided to let them go without much of an explanation, but claimed they were stopped due to a light that was out on the license plate.
Israel Corrales recalls an incident in which he was confronted and harassed by law enforcement. Israel Corrales, 21-year-old Hispanic college student, stood at a bus stop on his way to school as two cops drove up against the curb and asked where he was going. Initially, Corrales thought of not saying where he was heading. “I didn’t want to tell them because it was obvious where I was going, I had a backpack and I was at the stop,” said Corrales. He was then asked if they could look through his backpack. “They asked to check my backpack, I wasn’t gonna let them but I knew that if I said no they would have held me there longer and I was already late for school,” he stated. After a couple of minutes of searching without finding chargeable possessions, they asked for identification, returned his belongings, and left. “Since they didn’t find anything, they said they were looking for someone else and left,” said Israel. “ They were trying to see if they could catch me with drugs or something.”
There’s a reason why my little brother says, “Look—a cop!” with a petrified tone since he was 5. Recently, my mother explained to him that the cop was not the bad guy. “He’s there to help you,” she explained. To that, he responded, “Oh really?” This cultural stigma of cops has been present for many years. I would say that it needs to stop, but its difficult to get that message across when white privilege and color blindness sticks its hand in front of it all and claims, “it’s not because the color your skin, that doesn’t happen anymore.” According to the Associated Press, an analysis of Census Bureau and Justice Department shows only as of 6% of the police force was Hispanic as of 2007 with one-third of the population being such. This leads to think that the lack of Latino officers and law enforcers is the cause of high prejudice and racial profiling. Polls conducted by political scientists Jon Hurwitz and Mark Peffley, stated about 60 percent of whites believed that blacks deserve to be imprisoned from more frequently.