Trayvon Martin Case Another Example of Black and Native Communities Sharing Unfortunate Effects of Racial Profiling
By Vincent Schilling
Lamar says that although shooting deaths of both Martin and Williams were tragic, they were very different scenarios. He says Williams may have been killed because the officer was doing racial profiling, but it’s also plausible that the officer would have shot anybody—black, white or Native—holding a knife on a city street that day.
He says the Trayvon Martin case, however, is a completely different situation, and racial profiling was clearly a factor. He hastens to point out, though, that Zimmerman was not a trained law-enforcement officer, nor even a registered Neighborhood Watch volunteer. “He was just a yahoo with a 9mm pistol,” Lamar says. “The most dangerous person out there is a fool with a gun who has a hero complex.”
He adds that racial-profiling is a serious problem on border towns near reservations. “There are going to be border-town police who don’t like Indians and they are going to say ‘There is a carload of Indians—I bet somebody in that car is drunk and I’m going to pull them over.’”
Lamar says that even though racial profiling is against the law, many people—cops and civilians—have prejudices, and those prejudices come into play every day. “What you have to do is have cultural awareness training and you have to acquaint officers with the Native way of life,” he says.
Coleman says that in light of recent events, comparisons of racial profiling in African American and Native American communities can—and should—be drawn. “When it comes to people of color, we must justify our presence in the public arena when we are within our so-called designated spaces, i.e., segregated urban communities and reservations—which are over-policed. When African Americans and Native Americans dare venture outside of those spaces and into communities deemed to be off-limits, we are suspicious simply by virtue of our race and declared guilty of the crime of ‘Walking While Black’—Trayvon Martin—or ‘Holding a Knife While Indian’—Jonathan T. Williams.
“While African Americans have always experienced forced exclusion from the American mainstream and been denied equality with whites, Native Americans have always experienced forced inclusion, wherein mainstream America demands that Indians give up their race and culture to become honorary white people. African Americans are profiled based on the assumption that they do not belong; Native Americans are profiled based on their refusal to go along.”
Below: John T. Williams.