An extra twist on ‘driving while black’

That black drivers are routinely stopped by police on the flimsiest of pretexts is now common knowledge. Just a few days ago, I wrote about comedian Chris Rock’s experience of being repeatedly stopped by police and actor Isaiah Washington’s advice to him to drive a cheaper car if he wanted to not arouse police suspicions.

Washington’s suggestion that black people driving expensive cars make for a more likely target received support from the report yesterday of a South Carolina policeman shooting eight bullets into Walter L. Scott, a 50-year Coast Guard veteran and father of four, as he ran away. Video captured by a bystander seem to show that the police officer was in no danger, made no attempt to resuscitate him, and planted a Taser near the body, all in support of the false report that the police officer filed after the death.

What caused the police to stop Scott in the first place? The claim was that he had a broken tail light. That this is a preposterous reason is obvious because driving around the streets of America one can find cars with broken headlights and other much more serious problems.

But the other clue that has not been widely reported is that Scott’s car was a Mercedes Benz and then the story becomes clearer. In the minds of police, this is the operative equation:

Black driver + expensive car = criminal, likely a drug dealer.

So while driving while black is now a cause for being stopped by police, driving an expensive car while black is even more so.

And remember, if there had been no video, the false police report would have been taken as the final word. The video is all over the internet. Ryan Grim and Nick Wing write the news report that would likely have appeared if there had been no video evidence.

Andy Campbell reports that there is a bill in Texas that would bar bystanders from recording the actions of police within 25 feet. Because clearly police must be given the freedom to murder people with impunity and lie about it afterwards.


  1. DonDueed says

    At least in this case the cop has been fired, arrested, and charged with murder. Also, the police chief has announced that all his officers will be required to wear cameras.

    None of which would have happened if not for a citizen who alertly recorded the killing and came forward with it.

  2. says

    DonDueed (#1) --

    The citizen with the camera hasn’t been killed -- yet -- because he posted the video anonymously. If his identity were known, you can be sure he would have arrested already. Cops in the US have a long history of illegally going after those who go after cops legally.

  3. grasshopper says

    “Andy Camppbell reports that there is a bill in Texas that would bar bystanders from recording the actions of police within 25 feet. ”

    That will work well. As the police move in to arrest somebody with a camera who is only 24 feet away from a police action then a new centre of police action is defined, so that a second person with a camera who was at the legal distance now comes within 25 feet of the second action, and anybody with a camera within 49 feet of the orginal, and in the direction of the 2nd incident, is now at risk of arrest, and so on. A good way to clear a whole suburb of people with cameras.

  4. Mano Singham says


    The person who took the video has come forward and talked about what happened. Like you, I fear for his safety not just from the police but from people with a vigilante attitude.

  5. smrnda says

    Aside from avoiding accountability, there is no defense of banning the recording of police. It serves no purpose aside from intimidating citizens.

  6. Matt G says

    What will happen to the other cops who knew he had filled a false report? A lot of people need to be held accountable in this case, not just the shooter.

  7. says

    I’m not sure the Mercedes means he had money anyway. I had a coworker who drove a 20+ year old Mercedes. He’d picked it up cheap from a long time customer at his other job waiting tables.

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