Apparently, there is no place in America a Black person can go without experiencing racism—not even to the border of Canada.
Three Black Customs and Border Protection officers have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that CBP officers commonly target Black travelers for racial profiling and harassment and that the few Black officers working customs at the border crossing between Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Canada, are being put in positions where they have to engage in the racist practices themselves.
The Detroit Free Press reports that out of the 275 CBP officers that work at the Michigan/Canada location, only four are Black, and like most predominately white environments, some workers of color feel that racism is embedded in the very culture of their workplace.
From Detroit Free Press:
The Michigan lawsuit highlights what some immigration and civil rights advocates describe as a pervasive and unchecked problem of racial profiling at CBP, an agency they say has been steeped in institutional racism for decades. Similar racial profiling lawsuits have been filed over the years in Montana, Virginia, Texas, Washington, Ohio and Maine, though CBP has routinely denied culpability and avoided repercussions.
Nationwide, Black people account for less than 6% of the total CBP workforce of 21,185. More than 62% of employees are white; another 25% are Hispanic.
The CBP could not provide data on how many minorities versus white travelers are pulled over for secondary inspections at border crossings or how many are detained.
But in a March 25 report, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan published the findings from thousands of documents involving Border Patrol arrests CBP released last year after a five-year legal battle.
The data, spanning nine years and including records of more than 13,000 stops, revealed that more than 95% of those arrested by Border Patrol in Michigan are people of color.
So, surprising to nobody Black, the statistics surrounding who gets arrested at the border are pretty much par for the course of what goes on in policing in America in general.
I think the more interesting thing about this story is that Black border patrol officers are alleging in their suit that they are being forced to racially profile travelers themselves.
The Free Press reported that Black customs officer Johnny Grays, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, once pulled his gun on a Black driver while his children who were in the car screamed from the back seat, “Don’t shoot my daddy!” This reportedly happened because the driver failed to turn his engine off, roll down his window and show his hands on command. Instead, the driver fumbled around looking for his key fob which, apparently, made officers fear he was armed. Grays alleges in the suit that the common practice of racial profiling at the border not only demeans and humiliates Black travelers, but, on that day, it put both himself and the innocent Black family in harm’s way.
The truth is, racial profiling in America happens commonly everywhere Black people and people of color exist, and it always puts us in harm’s way—always.