Linda Chavez

After weeks of national angst generated when a white police officer shot an unarmed black man on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., perhaps it is time we have an honest discussion about race in America. But if we do so, the voices should not be restricted to those who carry a sense of racial grievance and blame racism as the root cause of all the problems that afflict the black community.

Jason Riley, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member and author of "Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks To Succeed," is certainly one man who should be listened to.

Riley is not oblivious to police bias. He recounts, in what is a very personal book, several incidents in which, as a young black man, police pulled him over when he was driving through white neighborhoods or high-crime areas, suspecting he might be up to no good, based solely on demographics.

In the early 1990s, while driving home from work as a sportswriter late one night through Washington, D.C., he got a harsh taste of what it sometimes means to be a young black man.

"I was sitting at a red light when no fewer than four squad cars converged on me, lights flashing and sirens screaming," he writes. "Seconds later police officers were pointing guns at me as I sat cowering."

The police ordered him out of the vehicle, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him, while two officers kept their guns pointed at him. A few minutes later they let him go, explaining he fit the description of a suspected gunrunner from New York (his license plates were from the Empire State).

The incident, far more traumatic than the one Attorney General Eric Holder recounted in the wake of the Ferguson shooting about being stopped by the police while running to a movie in Georgetown, didn't leave Riley embittered and angry, however. Nor did a series of other slights and suspicions, such as being followed in stores and while driving around white neighborhoods when visiting friends.

Why? Because he recognized that the behavior of all too many young black men makes many people -- including other blacks -- fearful. Riley recounts the statistics on crimes committed by blacks, most importantly young black men, from a variety of sources.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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