Janell Ross is at it again. Nearly one year ago Ms. Ross trotted out a Tennessean story full of unsubstantiated anecdotes about an unnamed market in Salemtown or Germantown near which paranoid whites sicked the police on African Americans merely due to race. Not only was it disputable; it was marred by factual errors.
So, you'll excuse me if I take Ms. Ross's piece on racial profiling in this morning's Tennessean with a grain of salt. It likewise seems less about North Nashville neighborhoods and more about her own presupposed narrative about what happens in the community. Her focus on alleged racial profiling by police in North Nashville seems flawed and her past missteps merely reinforce my perception.
The problem of racial profiling is real and those who fight it deserve stronger evidence than anecdotes, apples-to-oranges comparisons, and reporters who approach neighborhoods with their own preconceived and erroneous agendas. The opponents of racial profiling deserve data ironclad by reporters who mine it objectively and make relevant comparisons between communities.
A better method of exposing racial profiling would be to investigate directly the actual traffic stops as they occur on the streets. However, the risk in doing that is the reporter may discover that the traffic stops may be more bonafide than a superficial glance at the statistics suggests.
For instance, if Ms. Ross ventures around the Salemtown neighborhood many mornings before 8:00 she will find police standing with radar guns curbside near the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Hume Street stopping cars along one of the most heavily used rush hour corridors into Downtown. Why are they not out casing local gambling houses? Because they are trying to prevent speeders from racing through a 3-block area where 3 crosswalks serve K-4 kids walking to 2 schools.
Whenever I see the officers as I drive my kid to school, they seem to be stopping speeders headed from I-65 to Downtown in droves. I'm sure that area alone consistently feeds the traffic stop statistics with high numbers. Would I prefer that the police be out apprehending the visitmusiccity.com's new convention center lobbyist as he frequents area gambling houses? Not if having the traffic stop saves a single child's life as she walks to school.
These are the sorts of details that Janell Ross ignores. She should either compare these District 19 traffic stops to similar contexts in other districts or she should factor out traffic stops that obviously do not constitute racial profiling. But she cannot do either by interviewing Erica Gilmore or a social psychologist from California.
As for my council member's comments, I don't know which neighborhoods CM Gilmore is speaking about with regard to police sitting at traffic stops on the periphery but not entering the center, but I see the police patrols in cruisers in Salemtown (which according to Metro is 83% African American) on almost a daily basis. I see cops on bikes and horses patrolling alleys and streets around 2 or 3 times a week. Again, Ms. Ross's reportage does not fit with my experience in a North Nashville neighborhood. Given last year's botched story, I am not surprised.