'Driving while black': Darrius Stewart's death raises racial pro - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Driving while black': Darrius Stewart's death raises racial profiling concerns

Darrius Stewart (Source: Family) Darrius Stewart (Source: Family)

You may have heard of the phrase, "driving while black." Memphis Mayor A C Wharton mentioned it this week in reference to the Darrius Stewart case.

Stewart, 19, was shot and killed by a police officer on Friday, July 17. He was a passenger in a car that MPD Officer Connor Schilling pulled over. 

Stewart's death is being investigated by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile, questions are being raised about racial profiling.

"You can do everything right and still find yourself on the wrong end of the law," said African-America studies professor Rev. Dr. Andre Johnson. "African-Americans are more likely, six to eight times studies have shown, to be pulled over, harassed, suspects."

Even during a traffic stop, Rev. Dr. Andre Johnson said the perception of race is sometimes enough to land you behind bars or even get you killed. 

"People denote blackness as being super hyper-aggressive, a menace to society, that you must have done something," he added.

WMC Action News 5's Jerry Askin found research that more young men are carrying guns for protection. 

Some said this could mean there is more of a fear of male drivers and passengers during traffic stops. 

Dr. Johnson, however, believes it's simply racial profiling.

"It's already a preconceived notion and its hard to even get up out of that," he said.

Meanwhile, during a traffic stop, police advise you to be respectful, comply, and keep your hands clearly visible.

Memphis Police Department said it's also not uncommon for an officer to I.D. a passenger during a traffic stop for the officer's safety

Dr. Johnson says racial profiling is nothing new and needs to be addressed -- soon. 

"It is a problem, or dare I say, an epidemic," he added.

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