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The title of the book, Driving While Black, is relevant, easy-to- read and practical as it provides necessary information required when dealing with racial profiling. This is supported by the secondary sources which the author has included like the names of administrators and organizations with their phone numbers and addresses.
The thesis of this book offers a practical guide to a minority group which believes that it has been a victim of racial profiling. Meeks (2000) offers guidelines to minorities who are subjected to dealing with law enforcers and urges them to cooperate, remain calm and resist any temptation of arguing over the legal limits of the police’s authority. The author points out that by doing so, a person will make the “difference between going home, going to jail and going to the morgue” (p.138-139).
The author of the book is in a formal mood while explaining the guidelines in dealing with racial profiling. He uses the book as a platform to define racism, gender and class as it offers a piece of advice on how to deal with potentially harmful situations to the reader who is the potential suspect and whose rights have been denied as result of racial profiling, and the police.
The Relevance of the Book
The book is relevant in the Policing Issues and Diversity course. This is because the concept of gender, class and race usually influences men’s and women’s relationship, self-concept, inequality and life-opportunities. Gender is socially constructed through socialization whereby, agents of socialization like education, religion and family play a key role (Wotherspoon & Satzewich, 2004). The agents of socialization usually reinforce behaviors based on race, gender and class. They also define sex roles.
Consequently, socialization has led to societal configuration of class, gender and race that have resulted to structural patterns which affect group interaction, individual’s consciousness, group access to privileges and power (Bakker, 2012). However, the diversification of gender, race and class helps people to think relationally and comparatively by comparing and contrasting experiences of the different groups.
The community has reinforced certain behaviors or stereotypes based on race, gender and class. For instance, black men have fallen victim of racism irrespective of their social status. Bakker (2012) argues that there is high possibility of being pulled out of the car when Driving While Black as in the case of black male celebrity like Tyler Perry and TJ Holmes in Atlanta. Also, black males are likely to be pulled over for the possession of drugs like Marijuana even as some of them fight to decriminalize the drug (McMullin, 2009). However, this perspective involves both the rich and the poor in the community as described by the author in Driving While Black.
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Racism is rampant in the society and the author in Driving While Black is bringing out numerous events and examples that place the police in category of a class of people who think that they can exercise their power the way they want. However, racism is not only a police problem but a national problem. Therefore, in order to solve the problem of a racist cop, there is need to solve the problem of a racist society!
Remedies for Racism
Gender, race and class shape the community (Wotherspoon & Satzewich, 2004). These three aspects are intertwined and affect all the aspects of life hence offer structural experiences of all members of the community. This implies that class, gender and race are cumulative and overlapping on their impact on a person’s experiences (Ralston, 2007).
Meeks (2000) provides remedies for people who think that their arrest was not racially motivated. For instance, he says, “ The moment … that U.S. tradition agents are going to stop you….make sure the supervisor fills out a complaint form and mails it to Washington presently” (p.117). However, it is not clear if the law enforcement officers have any underlying racist motive.
A minority group often point out that racial profiling is a subtle form of prejudice as Meeks (2000) argues that “We must ask ourselves: is racial profiling a subtle form of legal prejudice? Or legitimate way of stopping crime before … it takes place? (p. 5-6). The cleaning lady detained by the customs officers for wearing a hat resembling to hats won by drug dealers is subjected to an uncomfortable personal search as she argues that the officials never searched her. This could have been discrimination based on her dressing which identified her to a particular class/race.
Therefore, the author proves that racial profiling can be difficult to proof and unless the encounter is recorded as there is no physical evidence. As a result, he advises people who are stopped by law enforcers to draw attention to themselves since they may require witnesses’ testimony to report the account of the incident. However, some of the author’s advice to those stopped by the law enforcement officers may result to more harm than good despite his good intentions. For instance, he clearly states that people cannot be arrested for refusing to identify themselves to police officers who legitimately requests for information. But failure to produce identification to a police officer in states like Texas can lead to arrest hence this advice seems to contradict itself (McMullin, 2009).
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Dealing with racism requires relational thinking as it makes a person see the social structures that link people together (Ralston, 2007). However, this does not imply that personal experiences are similar but helps one find commonalities. It also shapes people’s experiences without comparing others based on race oppression, gender oppression or class oppression which are not fully addressed in the book. Relational thinking equips people with necessary information to think on ways of changing the oppressive system that is manifested in the Driving While Black.
Finally, Meeks (2000) notes that “… it is probably a good practice for someone to keep a small notepad ….specially for police encounters” (p.17) as this will help eradicate the tensions of racial discrimination for all American citizens!
In conclusion, racism and gender is a controversial issue. In his book, the author has addressed on how to deal with racial profiling which is commonly practiced by the law enforcers. The title of the book, Driving While Black appears to be targeting the black population, however, from its content, racial profiling does not only involve black people but people from other races.
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