Banners block the entrance gate as demonstrators gather outside the governor's residence Friday, July 8, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn., where protests continue over the shooting death by police of Philando Castile after a traffic stop Wednesday, July 6, in Falcon Heights. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The Dignity of Being Black or Hispanic in America

I am writing here about something I know nothing about and, given the demographics of this website, most of you know nothing about. I have witnessed it, but I have not experienced it. Maybe you have too — the non-white friend who is handed the luggage while standing in front of a hotel; the non-white friend who cannot hail a cab; the non-white friend who gets pulled over by the police while driving the speed limit.

These things happen and I have been thinking of them more after the Philando Castile verdict, which I, like David French, think was a miscarriage of justice. Mr. Castile was an innocent man gunned down for no cause by an overly tense police officer giving Mr. Castile conflicting orders. Mr. Castile did his best to comply with conflicting orders and was killed for doing so. That’s not right.

The verdict came around the time a friend sent me an email. He has an older, small pickup truck with an Our Lady of Guadalupe bumper sticker in Spanish on the back window of the truck. He is as white, if not whiter, than I am. But ever since he has had that truck he randomly gets pulled over. More often than not, the police officer is visibly shocked when he approaches the truck to see a white guy at the driver’s seat. The truck is a magnet for the police.

There is a pastor where I live who was once pulled over, doing the speed limit, in Texas. His wife is white and the police just wanted to make sure she was okay.

I stood in DC once and watched a guy try repeatedly to hail a taxi. He was black and every cab passed him by. The moment I flagged one down, the cab pulled over. I offered the cab to the other man who refused. The cab driver protested that I had even done that. In Columbia, SC, when I was at CNN, Roland Martin and I were on our way to a TV hit. We were standing in front of the hotel in our suits. Tourists were trying to hand Roland their keys and luggage.

When I was on city council in Macon, I constantly fielded constituent complaints about double standards from the police. I had long thought it was a nonsense accusation, but I saw first hand how minority constituents were always more likely to be pulled over or bothered — even those who lived in affluent neighborhoods, had college degrees, etc. It was even worse in poorer areas of town.

Most of you reading this along with myself cannot relate to that. But I have a question — what does it do to the dignity and soul of a person who follows the law and still gets treated like a second class citizen? What about the equal dignity of all people? Given the Philando Castile injustice, we as a nation really need to think more about this.

President Trump said he would do wonders for minority communities. He could start by directing his Justice Department to review these double standards in treatment.

There is one last point I want to make and it is one some of you are probably making right now. You are probably thinking that if there were not so many young black men committing crime or Mexican men joining gangs or coming over as illegal aliens that the police would stop doing this. They brought it on themselves because of the behavior of so many others in their community and until they clean up their community they cannot expect otherwise.

I bet you are thinking that. I thought it too for a long time.

But I am a conservative and I oppose judging any person based on a group. Each man is entitled to his own dignity, not the dignity he gets by virtue of being a part of some group. To think otherwise is not conservative. To constantly badger an innocent man because of the behavior of those who might share his race or ethnicity is a rejection of our founding creed and the ideals of conservatism.

Every man has dignity because every man is made in the image of our living God. The sooner we recognize that and acknowledge there really is a problem here, the sooner we can arrive at a dignified solution. It will be too late for Mr. Castile. But it still must happen.

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Erick Erickson

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