The throng of angry whites jeered, catcalled, and spat out borderline racial insults at the small group of mostly black protestors. This wasn't a march against Jim Crow in Montgomery, Birmingham, Jackson, Mississippi, or Cicero, The year wasn't 1963. The charged racial confrontation happened on March 14, 2010 in the self-billed All-American, mostly white Los Angeles suburban bedroom city of Torrance, California. The march was called to protest the unwarranted stop, search and harassment of Robert Taylor, a prominent Los Angeles African-American minister and civic leader by two white Torrance police officers on March 4. Following the stop, there were hundreds of outraged letters many filled with vile, crude, and profane racist pot shots at blacks, in local newspapers blasting Taylor and civil rights supporters.
The Taylor stop fit the all too familiar pattern of many unwarranted stops of black and Latino motorists. Torrance police officials claimed that he and the car he drove allegedly fit the description of a suspect and car involved in a robbery and assault a day earlier. The problem is Taylor is not even remotely close in appearance to the description of the suspect. The picture circulated was of a short, stocky dark complexioned 30ish black male. Taylor is tall, in his 60s, and light complexioned.
Predictably, as in most racial profiling allegations, Torrance police and city officials hotly denied the profiling charge. They justified it with the stock story that crime is on the rise in the city, but offered no compelling stats to back up that claim. Taylor's stop would have likely ignited the usual finger pointing, charge swapping, and then faded fast except for one thing. Torrance has been slapped with a Justice Department lawsuit, civil rights lawsuits, court settlements, and hundreds of verbal complaints over the years by black and Latino motorists, shoppers, African-American mail carriers some in full uniform that work at postal stations in Torrance, and residents such as Taylor who allege they were racially profiled.
Torrance is hardly unique. The past decade, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and other big and small cities have repeatedly been called on the carpet for alleged racial profiling. In an address to a joint session of Congress in 2001, then President Bush blasted racial profiling, "It's wrong and we will end it in America." It hasn't
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