Jerome X," (not the respondent's real name) is a twenty-six-year-old individual of Jamaican parentage who has lived most of his life in America. He was born in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom to a Jamaican mother and father. They moved to the United States when Jerome was five. Currently, Jerome works in Macy's at the Freehold Mall (also a fictional name) as a shoe salesman. However, Jerome is also pursuing an associate's degree at a local community college and intends to transfer to another college at the end of the year. Jerome is a highly articulate, intelligent, and witty individual, and he seemed both comfortable and eager to share his responses with me when we met at a cafe in the student center at the college he is currently attending.
Q: In your opinion, what is the greatest problem facing African-Americans in America today?
Q: But specifically what form of racism? (Thinking of the experiences of his we had discussed in the pre-interview)
A: Racial profiling, do you mean?
Q: Yes. What do you feel are the most important causes of this problem, of racial profiling?
A: A couple of weeks ago I was driving in a [largely white suburb] to see a [white] friend of mine. I was stopped twice. Twice by cops. No reason. And, more seriously, my uncle is now doing time in jail. He was stopped on the Parkway for going ten miles over [the speed limit]. He argued. He was asked to get out of the car. The cop touched him, and he only reacted, asked the cop to take his hands off of him. Then things got ugly. 'Course, no one believed my uncle. Judges, police, all are against him.
Q: What are the causes of this problem?
A: A policeman sees a white person, they see an ordinary individual trying to get somewhere, but basically a decent person. They see me, they see a drug addict. Pure and simple. Attitude.
Q: What are your suggestions regarding how this problem can be solved?
A: Change in attitude.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Whites have to understand there is racism out there. The police aren't our friends, it happens, this racism, and there is a difference in the way people are treated everyday. I just want to be left alone and get on with my life, same as anyone.
Jerome seemed particular concerned that his experiences and the experiences of his uncle were understood not only in the light of his personal difficulties with the police, but as representative of a larger social phenomena. He showed me a picture of his uncle with his young niece. Jerome did this, he said, to prove that this man was not a hardened criminal with any particular anger directed towards the law-enforcement profession. Jerome stressed his uncle was a decent family man who was at the end of his patience. Jerome's uncle had been stopped while he was driving many times over the course the man's life by police officers. This was even though, prior to his arrest, his uncle had no police record. Jerome said he himself had gone to traffic court many times, at great loss to his income because of missed work hours, even though the charges were subsequently thrown out. Jerome stressed that decent Black people, "for no reason," were frequently stopped because of racism, for no reason other than skin color. He said that his own experiences and the experiences of his friends and family bore this "fact' out.
However, in terms of solutions, Jerome was not certain in terms of police protocol how to prevent such racially biased incidents from occurring so frequently. He stated that a change in attitude was key, however, he was uncertain how to render such changes in attitude into law. During a discussion between ourselves after the interview, I suggested diversity training and management amongst police officers, which he said, might help, although he seemed unenthusiastic about the potential to enact real and lasting change through such programs. Jerome seemed hardened and embittered by the profiling in his experiences. He considered himself to be a hard-working, law-abiding citizen who was constantly persecuted for reasons entirely beyond his control. Jerome's reasoning, given his experiences, seemed valid in terms of assessing how he…