The reality of racial profiling

Michael Blackson

It comes as no surprise that I am an African-American male, or at the very least, my skin complexion classifies me as a black man. My family has and continues to tell me that there will be moments where life becomes tough for someone of my race. I have watched and read accounts of other black individuals who have experienced discrimination or racism at the workplace or being followed around in public stores. I know that these encounters are real and do happen, but I never imagined it would happen to me.
We all hope certain events never happen to us: a family member passing away, getting hit by a car, or a major breakup. For me, I hoped I would never be singled out based on the color of my skin or the race I identify with. But these scary experiences do happen, and I was a victim this past weekend. I do believe I was subjected to racial profiling.
I will leave the name of the establishment out of this piece due to my uncertainty of the incident and to avoid any unnecessary legal repercussions without first talking to the owner.
On a cold, wet Saturday around 1 a.m., I found myself standing across the street from a club in Downtown Lancaster. I did not mind the slight drizzle or the cold weather; I was bothered by the confusion, daze, and frustration coursing through me. Not even 10 minutes ago, I was kicked out of the entertainment venue because of an accusation I knew I did not commit. The event happened so quickly that it took my girlfriend and our friends rushing out of the exit, and yelling at the security personnel about my African-American identity and that being the reason I was singled out. I was the victim of racial profiling, which is my interpretation of the incident that occurred at the club. I prefer not to use the term racism, as it is extremely broad. I was comforted by the group of friends I was hanging out with that night, who had my back, and expressed the frustration I was unable to.
I could not begin to allow my emotions to flow without understanding the situation first. It happened rather quickly, without any warning or pause. I never questioned my innocence that night or even up until now. But I was uncomfortable labeling it with the ‘race card’ without going over what happened again and again.
I had entered the club with my girlfriend, her roommates, and our friends on Saturday around 1.a.m. because we were celebrating one of our friend’s birthday. The place was our second and last trip of the night. Attendees were required to have a body check before entering: emptying their pockets and either patted down their person or their bags were checked for men and women respectively. I went through the checkpoint with ease, though I refused to have my coat checked. I did not have a dollar bill on me to pay for the service. I also did not feel comfortable handing over my coat because my girlfriend and I were not planning to stay long.
We all moved onto the large dance floor, where a DJ was blasting his music to an excited crowd. We danced and checked out the place for about ten minutes, though I noticed I was the only black person in the establishment. The group I was hanging with was white. Besides the people I was surrounded by and my coat I still had on, I did not seem suspicious at all. I was there for a great night of dancing.
raceprofilingWe moved in and out of the large, dancing crowd at least once with slight difficulty. This is the only time I can see myself being capable of being accused of pickpocketing. Not even a minute later, as we had regrouped near the hallway to the exit, I was approached by two security officials: security official one stood in front while security official two stood behind me. The former acknowledged his presence to me and told me to follow him. I was completely blindsided as to what was happening. It is the reason I did not ask why I was being singled out and why I did not inform my girlfriend and friends of what was happening. Instead, I followed the man into the hallway just beside where my group was standing.
Within seconds, I could see the exit off to the right of security official one, and how unsatisfied he was to see me. He immediately accused me of going through people’s pockets, to which I replied with shock.
I said I did not go through anyone’s pockets, which was met with annoyance. This continued for a while without any acknowledgement of evidence, such as witnesses, camera, or even a recollection of where I had been pickpocketing at. He told me I was lying, he was getting pissed, and ultimately, I was escorted off the premises.
I properly complied with the security’s orders to move across the street yet I still felt dazed at verbal harassment I faced for something I did not do. My girlfriend and our group came out of the exit, visibly frustrated at what happened. Some comforted me while others attempted to find answers. But we decided to leave since there was nothing we could do. I am still unsure of what happened because this is the first time I have experienced a moment where I was singled out from a large crowd. I do believe this was an incident of racial profiling because of the circumstances.
What puzzles me is the connection between the establishment and the individual. My girlfriend had went back inside for her coat so we could leave. The coat check guy asked, leaving so soon. She recounted what happened, and after their conversation, he claimed that it is not like the club does not hire and have black employees. If that is the case, the business may not be representative of one person. However, it is disappointing that I had to go through this experience when I wanted a good time out on the town. If the business does not represent this type of behavior, I surely hope something is done so others do not go through what I experienced. Granted, it could have been a lot worse, though cooperating and knowing my innocence may have prevented anything that I’ve heard from my parents or the media.