Editorial Board: Only Well-Spoken Black People Shouldn't Be Racially Profiled in Public Spaces


Councilman Kevin Conwell, flanked by Tara Samples and Dennis Kucinch, speaks about gun violence at Kucinich campaign event (2/19/2018). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Councilman Kevin Conwell, flanked by Tara Samples and Dennis Kucinch, speaks about gun violence at Kucinich campaign event (2/19/2018).

Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell was stopped by Case Western Reserve University police last Friday while walking through campus. A caller had alerted campus police dispatch that a black man with missing teeth was mumbling on a street corner.

Conwell said in interviews and at a city council meeting that he believed he was a victim of racial profiling.

"If I can't walk through my own neighborhood, I'm sure they're stopping my residents," he said.'s editorial board took up the issue this morning, which seemed to have been thoroughly and dutifully covered already but whatever, and in the midst of calling for increased unbiased policing training penned this truly insulting and troubling paragraph that seems to run directly contrary to the heart of what unbiased policing is about, not to mention the councilman's concerns, and general decency:

Conwell, who is black, was stopped and asked for his identification by CWRU police after a caller reported a black man with missing teeth mumbling to students on campus. The dispatcher did not tell police that the man had missing teeth, said campus police. But surely police ought to be able to tell the difference between the well-spoken Conwell, who was taking his daily walk across campus, and a mumbling vagrant. 
Where to begin?

First, "well-spoken" is blatantly coded racial language.

Second, black people who wouldn't describe as well-spoken deserve to be racially profiled and targeted by police for simply, ya know, being around?

Third, "mumbling vagrant" is some awfully dehumanizing language to use.

"Public spaces aren't just for elected officials or people who are well-spoken," Cleveland State law professor Joe Mead says. "Regardless of the skin color or professional stature, everyone has a right to travel and exist in public spaces without being accosted by the police."

See how simple that is?

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