Former CNN anchor and current BET host T.J. Holmes was pulled over near his Atlanta home yesterday for what he called in a tweet "driving while black."
T.J. joined Michael Eric Dyson last night as "kind of a reluctant guest" to explain the incident and discuss the racial divisions that still pervade American life.
Holmes explained he was about 1.5 miles from his house when a police car started following him closely, for at least a mile or two.
"(I) knew something was up," said Holmes. "I anticipated his lights coming on. Sure enough, they did."
Holmes explained (and demonstrated) that whenever he's pulled over the police, he sticks his arms out the window and crosses his hands so that the officer can see that he's not an immediate threat.
“You do that because you’re a black man and you don’t want them to think you have a gun or anything," Dyson clarified for the audience.
“I don’t want that officer nervous when he walks up to the door," Holmes said. "That's just something literally my mother has taught me to do."
Holmes said he specifically asked several times why was he stopped.
The officer said it was make sure he had insurance on the car.
"He even asked me for a bill of sale on the car," said Holmes. "He wasn't rude or anything necessarily, but he didn't have a reason for pulling me over. And I was, I was frustrated at the time, Dyson, and I tweeted about it."
"But then, all day today, I have wondered if maybe I made a mistake. And if I did something wrong by inflaming people's emotions. Because by using that phrase "driving while black" and putting that out, immediately, there were two sides, clearly polarized on the issue. One side, mothers, fathers, young black men who have gone through this experience or has had one go through it.
And then another side that called me a racist. The N word has been thrown around today. Been called other names saying there you go using the race card. And this, you talk about post-racial country, well, we can`t have a conversation about race ever because this is the -- it happens every single time. We go to our corners, we come out, we fight for a round, beat the crap out of each other, and go back to our corners and get ready to fight again and nothing gets done."
Holmes said he hopes that by talking about his experience, it will "put a face and name on [the injustice of racial profiling]" which "happens to a lot of people who are not going to have a voice."
Indeed, Bureau of Justice statistics show that black drivers are about three times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop compared to whites, and two times as likely as Hispanics.
The BET host said he complied with the officer’s requests but later filed a complaint with the police department.
"I'm not naming the officer. I'm not naming the police department yet because I want to go to them and try to make an improvement in my local community before I put them on blast."