In our Washington fishbowl, it is easy to forget the real life impact that policy choices have on people.
But last week, the ACLU and our coalition partners reminded folks in Washington of life outside the Beltway by bringing everyday people from 13 states to Capitol Hill to share their stories with members of Congress and their staffers.
I accompanied a lovely mother and grandmother, Boni Rhodes-Berg, to meetings with her members of Congress. When she was 56 years old, she was followed into an elevator, searched, humiliated, disparaged and disrespected by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who assumed she was a drug dealer because of her African-American heritage. The DEA's search of her luggage revealed pajamas, a Bible and devotional book.
As Boni shared her story, a congressional staffer interrupted us to say that he could not believe that this happened in America.
After last week, I hope that our lawmakers recognize that these terrible instances of racial profiling do happen in our country, more so than we'd like to believe. A 2004 report by Amnesty International estimates that one in nine Americans has been victimized by racial profiling—a total of 32 million people nationwide. During our lobby visits, we put real-life faces on these numbers.
Take action. Urge your member of Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, legislation sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Conyers, (D-Mich.) which would, among other things, provide training to help police avoid responses based on stereotypes and unreliable assumptions about minorities.