We ran a localized angle today on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates and the ensuing debate about racial profiling -- our story looked at the existence of racial profiling within Rochester.
Now, I had hesitation to write this story, not because I don't think it's an issue -- it is -- but localized stories run the risk of being exploitative of the local people involved, rather than taking a genuine look at the problem. Also, these story need to designate enough time and space to the local issue.
Too often, some media type will take a serious story like racial profiling and reduce it to, "Hey! You're a person of color! Surely you have an opinion on this situation across the country!"
That kind of stuff isn't journalism and it doesn't serve readers or the community. That simply re-opens scabs and scars without getting to the heart of any issue. Now, I'm not claiming that our take is the end-all, be-all article -- it isn't -- but I think we were able to highlight this issue without dumping cans of kerosene all over it.
We were able to find instances in the past of racial profiling and take a brief look at how things have changed since then. I still don't like the idea of trivializing something like racial bias on Rochester's streets to something that has become almost a tabloid national story. And I don't think we did.
But I'm interested to hear your impressions about that and racial bias as a whole. Story below:
(This article has a tenuous connection to education in that "Skip" Gates is a Harvard professor, but I figured it was worth re-posting. And I don't know why I called him "Skip," I've never met the man, but it's a cool nickname.)Post-Bulletin article
By Elliot Mann
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Sgt. James Crowley of the
Cambridge, Mass., police and President Obama sit down tonight to share
a few beers and discuss racial profiling by police, similar talks have
been happening for years in Rochester.
One local leader said the problem hasn't been eliminated here, but we're moving in the right direction.
not as bad as it once was, but it still exists," said W.C. Jordan, head
of the Rochester chapter of the NAACP. "Progress has been made, but
just like we see in the Gates case, some places have an overwhelming
distrust with the police. It's hard to put a group of black people in a
room and have them not tell them stories like that."
Rochester police have made changes to address concerns about bias, Police Chief Roger Peterson said.
profiling hit the national spotlight when Crowley arrested Gates at the
professor's home after the officer responded to a call of a possible
break-in July 16. An argument ensued when the officer reached the home
and began questioning Gates. The professor was arrested for disorderly
conduct, although those charges have since been dropped.
2003, racial profiling came to light in Rochester when a state-funded
traffic study showed black motorists were more likely to be searched
than their white peers.
Jordan himself recalled at least 10
times when he was stopped by police on what he felt were unfair
grounds. But he hasn't endured such an incident since 2002, he said.
those events weigh heavily on a person's mind. Although Jordan thinks
Gates could have handled the confrontation differently, he understands
where the professor was coming from.
In responding to concerns
from the community, Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson said the
department has voluntarily instituted changes in hopes of mitigating
similar bias complaints.
For instance, the police department
stopped "consent searches," which are performed at a traffic stop with
the consent of a motorist. Police also stopped randomly running license
plates as they passed by cars around town.
Peterson said, the police department will hire a professional standards
manager, a sort of police department ombudsman to proactively review
how authorities are doing their jobs.
"Is the problem solved?
Of course not," Peterson said. "I'm not at all saying that. But are we
better educated and better informed? Yes we are. We're not just paying
lip service to those concerns."
Other community organizations are also looking to join the discussion.
Diversity Council has created an eight-person group to review the
Olmsted County Bias/Hate Crime and Incident Response and Prevention
They are still in the early phases, but the group came
together in light of bias crimes reported earlier this year, Diversity
Council Executive Director Kay Hocker said.
"There are many
people in our community who care deeply about each other," she said,
"and we want to make sure we are exhibiting that care we have for all