Can you imagine this happening to a white woman in the U.S.?
Elementary school principal Yvette Hayes will never forget the night of July 13, 2007. She was pregnant at the time and believes police jeopardized the life of her unborn child.
When Hayes was pulled over in the Kansas City suburb of Independence, Mo., on Interstate 70, she thought it was a routine stop. "I'm thinking they'd ask for my driver's license," she said.
Instead, police drew guns on the five months' pregnant mother — whose two children were in the back seat of the car — and told her to lie on the ground.
"Get your hands up," one officer shouted while another ordered her to "go down on to your belly. Arms out to your side! Palms up, palms up!"
Shocked and sobbing, all Hayes could say was, "I'm pregnant."
Hayes had just left a local JCPenney, where a store security guard misidentified her green Jeep as a vehicle involved in stealing cars from the parking lot.
I'll save Denis Bider some typing and anticipate his response: it is not unreasonable to target black people this way because black people commit most of the crimes in this country, just as it is not unreasonable to target young Muslim men as suspected terrorists because most terrorists are young muslim men.
As intuitively appealing as this reasoning may seem, it is false. Just because most people who fall into category A have characteristic B, it does not folow that people with characteristic B are likely to fall into category A. Neo-nazis are overwhelmingly white. It does not follow that a randomly chosen white person is likely to be a neo-nazi. So even if car thieves are overwhelmingly black (which is debatable) it does not follow that a randomly chosen black person is likely to be a car thief. (I note in passing that Denis Bider bears a striking resemblance to Ed Norton in American History X. But I'll wager that Denis would be quite upset (and rightly so) if I opined that this physical resemblance indicated that he might be a white supremacist.)
But this case is actually much, much worse than that because Yvette Hayes is not just a black person. She is a black woman. Not only that, she is an obviously pregnant black woman who had two young children in her car. Whatever else car thieves may generally be, they are generally not pregnant women with young children in tow. But these cops obviously didn't see a pregnant woman. All they saw was a black person.
Now, if there were any justice, these cops would not only be fired, they would be charged with assault under color of authority and do hard time. But of course that won't happen because policemen get to hide their racism behind the cover of "proper procedure." They pulled over someone fitting the description of an alleged car thief, and they did what they were trained to do with alleged car thieves. Trick is, this excuse only works when that description is "a black person."
But it doesn't even end there. Hayes's two young children now have to deal with the trauma of having policemen wave guns in their faces and forcing their pregnant mother to lie down on the freeway (and most likely get off with a slap on the wrist at worst). They have to live the rest of their lives with the not-unreasonable fear that this might happen to them again (and again and again and again and again). This is a source of stress that most of their white peers don't have to deal with. I stand foursquare with anyone who says that people have to take responsibility for their own lives. But there is not, there has never been, and there is no reason to expect that there will be any time soon in this country a level playing field.