Talking Racial Profiling and Red Hoodies in New Haven

Apr 23, 2012

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, one New Haven cop is reaching out to African American teenagers -- asking them to think about ways to avoid being singled out. The Connecticut Mirror's Uma Ramiah has more.

There are about twenty young people in the basement of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Haven on a weeknight. They're talking about cops, race, and hooded sweatshirts.

"What can get you killed faster: Your clothes, the way you dress? Or your skin color?"

That's Shafiq Abdussabur, a New Haven community organizer turned police officer. He tells the students cops are often on the lookout for young, black men in dark hoodies and dark jeans. And that, he says, isn't all racial profiling. The majority of people killed in America by gun violence are black males.

"Guess who's killing them? Black males. Guess what they're dressed in? Black clothing. That's a fact. That's just a fact," Abdussabur says.

Abdussabur is actively involved in New Haven's neighborhoods outside of his day job. He's most interested in reaching out to young, minority males. His book, called A Black Man's Guide to Law Enforcement in America, offers information to young people on how to handle encounters with the police. 

At Emmanuel Baptist, he asks students to think about the way they dress, and how others might perceive them.

"As a black male in America, and as a black female -- you will not get a second chance at a first impression."

The teenagers gathered say the message makes sense -- they know people make assumptions about them based on their appearances. They'd like to see this kind of program offered in high schools around the city.