The year was 1998 and four young #Black men were on their way to basketball tryouts at North Carolina Central University. The van was traveling on the New Jersey turnpike, and was pulled over by the police. The men in the van claimed that they were cooperating with the officer, however, something went terribly wrong and shots were fired and 3 of the occupants in the van were hurt. The van was searched and there was no weapons, no drugs, only basketball equipment and a Bible, traveling with the young men.
There were protests and demands that a state and federal investigation be done on the New Jersey state police. There were many other complaints of the police “profiling” black and Hispanic drivers, either in the New Jersey or the nation. According to Thomas Sugrue writer for Auto Life, “African Americans had long complained about being pulled over for what they sardonically called “driving while black.” Civil rights organizations regularly fielded complaints by black and Hispanic motorists who charged that they had been pulled over for minor traffic infractions or for no apparent reason at all.
One African American doctor who owned a gold-colored BMW reported that he had been stopped about fifty times in his travels through New Jersey but never issued a ticket. The very fact that he was a black man in a flashy car attracted the attention of the police. The local and national news media uncovered dozens of such stories, but New Jersey state officials continued to deny charges that the state police engaged in racial profiling and defended police conduct as nondiscriminatory. For blacks, as well as for whites, cars had real practical value–as a means of getting to work, of travelling, of visiting family and friends. But cars had other, deeper meanings for many African Americans. Perhaps most importantly, they helped blacks to escape the insults of Jim Crow.The car provided southern blacks a way to subvert Jim Crow. As Gunnar Myrdal noted in his exhaustive study of black America published in 1944, “the coming of the cheap automobile has meant for Southern Negroes, who can afford one, a partial emancipation from Jim Crowism.” Blacks who could afford to travel by car did so as a way of resisting the everyday racial segregation of buses, trolleys, and trains, for as one observer noted, “Race is most completely ignored on the public highway. Effective equality seems to come at about twenty-five miles an hour or above.” Read more.
Many Black people did not drive during the day time, they would wait to night and take back roads to avoid the police. However, the dangers still lurked if they were caught while #driving Black at night. #Black drivers hoped it would be more difficult for the police to identify the color of their skin at night. The phenomenon of being stopped for “driving while black” did not begin with New Jersey in the 1990s. Throughout the twentieth century, black drivers regularly complained that they were harassed by police officers. It was common advice that black motorists should drive below the posted speed limit, but not too slow as to attract attention. Police officers would still continuously stop blacks for traveling even one mile an hour faster than what was posted. Fast forward to today, and many Black drivers are still profiled and pulled over just because of the color of their skin. Although, Black Americans are pulled over more than any other race, it will not stop them from continuing to drive. Through driving they have freedom that they would not have on public transportation. The automobile industry helped change the lives of many African-Americans prior years escape Jim Crow. Now, many Black people are able to become employed in the industry and own some of the top of the line automobiles. Read more.