Racism is alive and well in Decatur, Ga.

Isn’t that In the Heat of the Night? Wasn’t that in one of them old movies? This is 2014. Racism is alive and well. — Joel Drew, statement to the Decatur City Commission, April 21, 2014.

The evening of April 21, 2014, a handful of Decatur residents presented testimony before the Decatur City Commission on racial profiling by the city’s police department. Local journalists ignored the appearances (e.g., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Creative Loafing). One local blogger glossed over the specific allegations of racism in Decatur. Even the Decatur City Commission minutes from the April 21 meeting failed to capture the remarkable narratives from the evening.

This post contains verbatim transcripts made from the April 21, 2014 meeting. The source audio and video used is archived on the City of Decatur website. Each entry below begins with the city’s official synopsis of the comments entered into the meeting’s official record (meeting minutes) followed by the verbatim transcript. The entries are presented in the order in which people appeared.

For more on racial profiling in Decatur, read A Lesson in Racial Profiling and Historical Relevance (National Council on Public History, History@Work, April 10, 2014).

Thaddeus Nathaniel

Nathaniel

My name is Thaddeus Nathaniel. I live at *** ****, a recent transplant from Florida, to speak of the two instances that happened. They took place within the past six, seven months of each other. The last one happened on March 24.

The first instance was actually a resident called the police on me stating that I looked lost. One thing that I didn’t mention to Chief [Mike] Booker today when we had the meeting that the officer that handled the call, handled it appropriately. He stopped me, said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry for bothering you but I got a call. We get these calls all the time. Are you lost?”

I said I’m not lost. I gave him the address, *** ****.

[He] said, “Thank you. I apologize again. You have a good day.” And that was it.

That goes to show one aspect of racial profiling that we need to address, which is the residents.

The second instance actually goes to address authority figures. I was at *** ****, this was March 24. The time was approximately, I would say, 11:45 – either 11:45, 12:45 – but to kind of give you an idea, I’m coming out of my inlaws’ basement. They have a split-level home. The driveway is up on top of the hill. If you’re familiar with Pinetree, if you’re coming from Scott [Boulevard], you’re at the bottom of the hill. If you’re going towards Ponce [de Leon Avenue], you kind of get to the top, then go down.

As I walk out, there’s a 10-foot wall that I have to pass before I’m visible to the street as I go up the hill. When I see the officers, they’re just getting over a hump that’s maybe a fourth of the distance from the house going from left to right, from Scott to Ponce.

I go to check the trash. I was headed to downtown Decatur. My wife had just four minutes earlier went on a walk around the block. As I see them come over the hump, I get to the trash can. We get there at the same time. I give a casual salute. By the time I turn around, I kind of knew what was taking place, what situation was happening.

I went up to the driver’s side window. I had enough time to hear – or actually, I went up to the passenger side window. I had enough time to hear the driver call into dispatch and ask if there was any burglar alarms that went off.

As the driver got out and approached me, the first words out of his mouth was, “There’s no soliciting allowed.”

I replied, “I’m not soliciting. These are surveys.”

His next response was, “Let me see your ID.”

I then informed him that, “I’m not showing you my ID; I’ve done nothing wrong. There’s no reason for you to stop me.” I said, “As a matter of fact, I live right here.”

His response was, “Am I supposed to take your word for it?”

I then tell him the name of the owners, my inlaws. He said, “There’s no way for us to prove that.”

The situation then – literally I was there for ten minutes before my wife came back around.

There’s a few points I want to just state in my example. One of the officers, as I told him that I was actually going and conducting the surveys, the officer said that he saw me go up and down several different driveways, two separate driveways, which is an impossibility giving the surroundings that we were in at that time. Just from where he was coming, where I was coming, there wasn’t enough time where they stopped in front of the neighbor’s driveway for them to actually see me go up and down two separate driveways that are at least 20 feet in length. Both.

At that point in time, I say, “Well, I was headed downtown to conduct the surveys.”

The second officer stated, “I wish I had the luxury to take a walk downtown.”

Realizing the comment that he made, that it was very sarcastic, I kind of rolled my eyes, shifted my weight, and just casually put my hand in my pocket. The officer said, “Get your hand out of your pocket.”

He used an authoritative tone. He was supposed to. I state that because unfortunately it’s an instant like that to where the worst could potentially happen.

So they held me there for ten minutes. My wife makes it around the block. She walks up, she says, “I’m his wife. We live right here. What’s happening?”

She then engages the officers in conversation. A minute after she gets there, the neighbors come out, who are walking their dog – getting ready to walk their dog. They approach the whole situation that’s happening in front of their house and say, “Thad, what’s going on?”

For the next five minutes, the officers went in a round robin still pretty much harassing me to get my ID. They didn’t bother asking my wife of my identity to verify that I lived at the house. They didn’t bother to ask the neighbors of my identity that I lived at the house. They were more interested in getting my ID to run it through the system to see exactly what came back.

It got to the point to where it just became more humiliating and embarrassing as the neighbors who I haven’t officially met yet – I mean I’ve just moved here. My wife has lived in Decatur all her life. We actually moved from Florida so we can raise our kids here. I haven’t met these neighbors yet and their first encounter with me is to see me held up, not held up, but being – and it’s not even detained because they don’t detain you – but bing engaged by Decatur police.

It got to the point to where I just got so aggravated, so embarrassed, so humiliated that I said, “I’m reaching in my pocket. I’m going to give you my ID.”

I gave them my ID. The second officer that was on the passenger side – it was the driver’s side officer that actually made the comment that he visibly saw me go up and down two separate driveways.

As they were handing me back the ID, the officer that was in the passenger seat, He said, “Well, Mr. Nathaniel, you have to understand what our perceptions are.” And I stopped him. I said, “No, your perception was that I was a black man in the wrong neighborhood so you decided to get my ID so you can go fishing to see what came back in the records.”

Another thing that I wanted to address real quickly, and it kind of goes back to Don Denard’s situation and also what I alluded to on how this officer made a statement to kind of justify him stopping me. There is a city ordinance against door-to-door solicitation. I wasn’t going door-to-door. I hadn’t knocked on a door; I literally just walked out and walked up the driveway. It’s called articulable reasonable suspicion. I think what takes place is that officers – and I’ll just read from the paper so that I kind of gather myself here a little bit.

I feel that officers, and this is as a whole and this isn’t just Decatur, but they’re trained to alter to the truth in a way to justify their actions. They are trained as to perform their duties. They are trained to perform their duties as to not get caught profiling. They are not trained to perform their duties without profiling. That is why there are so many similarities in verbiage that they use and how the situations tend to play out.

With my second encounter with the Decatur police department, it’s kind of similar to what took place with Don Denard. If the officer didn’t state that there were leaves on top of the letter, on top of the mail, to indicate someone hadn’t been there, there would have been no reason for her to go into his backyard to see that the door was open, to then call in a suspicious persons report.

They then state that they have the authority. That’s what the officers said to me. “Well, if you were compliant, you could have been on your way already.” I said, “No, I am being compliant. I’m just not going to cooperate and have you guys trample my rights.”

They are doing what the city asked. They said that in Don Denard’s situation. The officers said it to me as well.

They give some type of example to kind of get you to agree with them as to what they’re doing is correct. The officer with me said, “Well what if there was a gentleman with a white van that, you know, said he lost a puppy. What would you want us to do?”

And I said, “I wouldn’t want you to trample his rights. If there was a witness that said they saw him, you know, trying to abduct a kid, by all means, get his ID.”

The officer stopped me and said, “That’s not what I was saying.”

I guess I didn’t fit his example.

They keep you engaged long enough for you to do something stupid that can escalate the situation and they run your ID anyway. Or, they keep you engaged long enough to where you’re embarrassed into compliance as they are going fishing and run your name through the system.

They do not observe. They do not analyze, then investigate. They jump to conclusion with a presumption of guilt. They explain the situation so that perception and Commissioner Cunningham, I actually read some past articles about the whole situation and you made a comment about perception as well. I think what they do is they go ahead and they explain the situation so that perception can have multiple views.

Tweaking what really happened just so there could have been wrongdoing on the victim’s part. They see the right person, black male, and profile that he is in the wrong place, white neighborhood, then create a mentally justifiable perception for outsiders as to why they engaged or made contact. And then they are able to go fishing for actual wrongdoing before their trump card, “Let me see your ID,” so that they can go ahead and run that person’s name through the police records to check and see if there’s any outstanding warrants, any other situations of that nature.

I’ve shared this with my wife. I haven’t really shared it with anybody else. I’ve had dreams about, you know – and being from Florida, it’s happened before to me. But Florida’s a big state. You know, Fort Lauderdale is a big city. Decatur is small. You can’t escape it, you know. And I’ve had dreams of going out and having another run-in with law enforcement and knowing myself, knowing who I am, knowing what I am raising my son to be, I would want him to exactly what I’m doing. Question that authority when you know you’re in the right, when you know you’ve done nothing wrong. Because if we don’t question it, then what ends up happening, we turn a blind eye and it ends up igniting into a larger forest fire than what we anticipated. And now, as Don [Denard] said to Chief [Booker] Booker, we’re on the front page of the national news because there was a police shooting.


Joel Drew

Drew First of all, let me thank you for allowing us all to voice.

I go to Decatur Presbyterian Church. For some white officers, they find that very hard. When I first came on the scene [in] 2008, I had just left the church, suited down, Bible. I believe she was Detective Amy Hall now. I was talking to a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in I guess a few months.

She walked over to the train station – “Excuse me sir. I know everybody in Decatur and I don’t know you.”

Needless to say, I kind of said the wrong answer. We won’t repeat that. But anyway, I said – you know what, let me change that. This is the first encounter with Decatur.

I said, “I go to that church right there.”

[Officer] “What church?”

“That red brick one.”

[Officer] “You go to that church?”

Now I understand that it was 100 years or more of being all white. I got that. But some people are still stuck in the past. I don’t know.

So last year, 1 a.m. Friday morning, taking my morning walk. I get across Church [Street] and Ponce [de Leon Avenue] – no, Church and Commerce [Street]. And an officer, an older white officer looks over, gives me the hairy eyeball from the car as he was taking a right to go up Commerce.

So I go across and keep walking. Two officers drive up. One throws the flashlight at me, as far as turning the light on.

So I said, okay, I know what this is about to be. So I walked down and by the time I get to Glen Lake Park, the officer says – he’s out of the car – “Sir, can we talk with you?”

“Yeah, what about?”

[Officer] “Where are you coming from?”

I said, “Back there.”

He said, “Where are you going?”

I said, “Up here.”

[Officer] “Well, we’ve had robberies.”

Now that bothered me because living in Decatur for these few years, that seems to be the essence of every cop’s stop: “We’ve had robberies.”

So, I don’t play well with others. I said, “Listen, congratulations. Did you catch him? Did they say it was me? Do I fit the profile?”

[Officer] “No.”

To all.

“Well why did you stop me?”

[Officer] “We want to make sure people are where they are supposed to be.”

I said, “Well how do you know where they are supposed to be?” I said I could be coming from work, going to work.

I said, “Now, let me ask you a question.”

I said, “Did you come across Church and Ponce?”

[Officer] “Yes we did.”

I said, “Did you see all the drunk white people standing in front of Leon’s right in the middle of Ponce?”

He looked at me and said, “Sir, have a nice day.”

Second one. Railroad tracks [near] Dairy Queen. I’m headed going across, what is that street, College. Going over to Trackside to play some pool. An officer – in fact, this officer, I don’t know his name but I know his face – he showed up at the men’s breakfast about a month or so ago when we had the officer to speak.

Anyway, he yells out – he goes across the light, drives to the first lamp, which is probably 10 feet from the corner. He stops, backs all the way up, yells out of the car, “Hey! Where are you going? What’s your name?”

I said, “Son, let me explain something to you. I’m old enough to be your dad so you’re going to talk to me a lot better than that.” I said, “What is your name?”

He said, “Mark.”

I said, “Well Mark, I’m going to go over here and play some pool.”

He said, “Well you look like somebody we’re looking for.”

I said, “Well Mark, who you are looking for is probably 10 to 20 years younger than me. So I’m going to let you go ahead on about your beat.”

[Officer] “Well, I’ll call –“

“With all due respect, I don’t care if you call Jesus. I’ll be in here playing pool if you need to see me.”

Last summer, I saw a seventy-year-old black man walking, hot, in the sun. He sat down next to that dress shop on the corner. It’s Starbucks on one end, the dress shop’s on this end. The first thing the officers did was walk over to him with the first thing out of their mouths, “We understand you are selling drugs.”

The man says, “It’s hot. I’m sitting down. I’m tired.”

Then they ask him for his ID and they run it. Not even 10 minutes later – and I’m sitting under the tree and I’m watching all of this – a black man comes, got his work outfit on; DeKalb Medical. Just got through paying an electric bill when the electric company was right here.

Same officer. She walks up with another officer. Same statement: “We understand you are selling drugs.”

The guy said, “Lady, I’m on my lunch. I just paid an electric bill. Showed it to her.” So as she’s getting ready to look at it, he calls 911; he calls DeKalb County. DeKalb County comes. She tries to block the officer from getting to him by throwing her web of lies.

All right. The officer goes over, talks to the man. The man shows what he just did. DeKalb County says to Decatur, “You need to leave this man alone. This is the only police force that blatantly infringes on black peoples’ rights daily.” He said that.

I don’t know – I had, the other mayor that used to be here, Floyd. I saw him one day. So I had to ask him. I said, “Let me ask you a question. Do you have two sets of rules in this town for people?”

He said, “No. What do you mean?”

I said, “Do you have a set of rules for white and another set of rules for black?”

He said, “Not that I know of.”

I said, “Well, obviously your officers don’t know that because they keep bothering people.”

Now, with all due respect to everybody up here. Everybody. He said, “I didn’t know that.”

I said, “Of course you wouldn’t because it’s not applying to you. As long as it doesn’t bother you, why should you be concerned?”

And that is the problem we have in Decatur. That’s the problem we’ve got.

Granted, there are those that are bad. I’ve got that. I’ve got that. But, to stop a senior citizen. I’ve seen one stop one in a wheelchair. Are you kidding me? And I’m looking at this like you’re playing.

Now you have signs that say you can’t ride your bike up in the square. Officer Shirley – we’re going to throw names for a minute. This is the lady that’s been one of the officers in question. Says to two black guys riding their bikes, “Get off your bike.”

Okay, we’ve got that.

But two minutes later, two white guys rode by and she stood right there and watched the whole thing and didn’t say a thing.

She said to me one day, I was standing there smoking a cigarette, and she said – I went back and talked to Todd about this right afterwards. She said, “You are not allowed to smoke within 50 feet of a restaurant.”

So I said, “Okay. I got that.”

So that Friday evening I watched and I watched a bunch of white people sit there, not even eating, but two feet from a table where people were eating, smoking, smoking, smoking. She’s standing right there watching the whole thing and didn’t say a thing.

I said, “Oh, I see.”

So when she came at me again, I had to bring that to her attention.

[Officer] “Well when was this?”

I said, “Last Friday night at 7:30. You were on beat at 7:30. You were standing right there.”

They see me. I’m not articulate. I’m not fancy dressed. Ain’t none off that. I come from the [most] racist state in the United States, Oklahoma. Do your homework on Greenwood and see what happened there two years before Rosewood. Where that whole little section got blown away because of a white woman who said a black man spoke to her.

So I know all about the racism thing. So when people try to look at me and say, well – and don’t get me wrong. It is so easy to claim racist. It is so easy for a white person to say a black person’s done something or for a black person to say, “Oh, you’re racist simply because you might not agree with me.”

Okay, that’s a bunch of crap. Okay, I can deal with that. But when you blatantly come to my face and you show it and then you try to cover it up – and this is going on three, four, five times a day. And then when you go to talk to somebody and naturally nobody’s going to be worried about it because the whole statement is, “Why should you worry? It’s not affecting you. Why should you worry?”

Because it don’t. But it affects us.

See, I’m not scared of nothing. When I came out of the war, that gave me the right not to be. Alive. But the point I’m getting at is I don’t like feeling like I have to look over my shoulder every time I come out to go to the store. To walk up the street.

Look, I believe in talking with people, not to people. You talk to a dog, you talk with people.

Now obviously they haven’t – and maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe I should say this. With all due respect, again, it appears to me – now this ain’t none of these folks. This is me. That the kind of cops you’re hiring here are the kind, excuse me, used to get their tails beat in high school so now this is their retribution factor. This is exactly what it’s coming out to be and it’s one after another after another after another.

And I can understand some people lying. But all of us?

Like I said, I ain’t got no college education. I ain’t got nothing fancy. This is what you get for $1.99 every day. But I figure I did 26 years in the service to protect somebody who can just dog me whenever they get ready.

I don’t think so. And I think every one of these people, every one of these people – you yourselves – you deserve the same respect that I do and I give that to you. But all I ask is you give it back to me. I’m not demanding; I’m asking.

Well, that should be the same way with your cops. If you’re saying that your cops – oh, it was something that got me at the meeting. This guy, white guy was with an older black lady. And he said that the chief of police, this black lady’s grandson reports – he brings his report card. The man comes to the games … no disrespect. That’s good. But what I got out of the deal was, no matter how good you were, that one instant your officers wiped away all that by going out in the street and doing what they’re doing.

And I just could not quite understand how this police chief does not know this is happening. I don’t get that. I don’t understand how he does not know this.

You may never hear or see me again. That’s fine. But these fine upstanding citizens, yourselves. You owe it to you. You owe it to you. I ain’t got not more investment here. But you owe it to you. And I just don’t feel like I need to walk at 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock and a cop comes up to me and tells me, “We just want to make sure people are where they’re supposed to be.”

What does that mean?

Isn’t that “In the Heat of the Night?” Wasn’t that in one of them old movies? This is 2014.

Racism is alive and well.

Thank you for your time.


 

Angelica Manson

Manson

If I may speak for those of us who are young in Decatur. We have had to change ourselves to be able to live, to be able to walk down the street.

When I came here in ninth grade, I lived here – I was born here but the significant part of my life is going through high school. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t be myself walking around with my friends after school, trying to get ice cream from Chick fil-A. I literally have to put my head down. Or wear a hat. Or take my sunglasses off. Or not carry my book bag around because as soon as I walk in the square, there’s going to be an officer there that’s going to throw it on the ground.

Now to make the point in racial profiling, the officers will throw my bag on the ground while leaving my white friends’ standing there. Easily.

My brother had to cut his hair. My friends had to cut their dreads.

You know, we have to not go out at night or go to a specific gas station to avoid being questioned, “What are you doing? Who are you?”

Coming home from work at 10 o’clock at night – I work in retail – I come through Oakhurst and an officer comes around the corner and looks me directly in my face and backs up and pulls me over for no absolute reason. But proceeds to search everything I have – even proceeds to accuse me of smoking marijuana, which I don’t do.

He went through everything I had and I asked him why. I said, “Sir, why did you stop me? I’m tired. I’ve worked eight hours today. I’m exhausted.”

He said, “You didn’t look right driving that car.”

I drive my mom’s 2006 Volvo.

I don’t get why I didn’t look right driving that car. I don’t get what in my face made him hate me for that moment. But he felt the need to stop me and sit me on a corner for an hour while he searched through everything in my car to find anything.

We’ve had to change the way we talk. You know, we might joke around with each other, say certain things. But when it comes to an officer, you know, there’s no way you can have a crick in your back. There’s no way you can’t stand up straight because if you say anything wrong – if you move your hands wrong. Having my hands in my pockets like this or standing with my knee down like this, that’s going to get me put up against the wall, handcuffs on me for no reason.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’m young. Whether it’s because I’m young and black. Whether I’m not supposed to be out past nine. Anything of that sort.

But what it’s come down to is that no matter what, if I’m hanging out with my black friends, I’m going to get in some trouble in Decatur. If I’m hanging out with my white friends, I’m going to be the only one in the group to get in trouble and it’s happened to me on more than one occasion.

I told my mom recently that I don’t even want to live here any more because I can’t go to work in the morning without looking around, wondering which way I should go to avoid being stopped because I’m driving her car. I can’t come home at night without wondering if I should go down DeKalb Avenue or come down [Interstate] 20 and go through Kirkwood. I don’t know which way to even make it home and I can’t be comfortable.

And I don’t think that’s fair. I haven’t had the background that the older gentlemen have had, you know, with racial profiling. I’m growing up and it’s 2014, I just hit 21. I don’t even know how to think that way because that’s not how I was raised. I was raised to be progressive. I was raised to have every different nationality in my group of friends. But recently I’ve had to wonder why I’m being attacked the way I am and it changes the way I look at the people who govern the city I live in. Who choose the police that enforce the rules in the city that I live in.

And I’m not exactly sure why I should have to live in fear and change the way I think just because there are people who don’t like us. And I think it should be made a point to go down this list and look at these rules that these people have come up with because we can’t continue to be uncomfortable. I can’t continue to see a light flash by my window at night and wonder whether Decatur police are flashing lights up and down the street at my specific house because my brother wants to sit on our front porch. Waking up at 2 a.m. because police are flashing lights right outside.

I don’t understand it. It’s hurtful. But more than anything, it’s unnecessary and it should be fixed.

Thank you.


 

Meredith Gordon

Gordon

This is the first meeting I’ve been to here. I’ve been living in Decatur for seven years. My name is Meredith Gordon.

It’s interesting because I think a lot of what people have been talking about today, with ordinances and annexing stuff, Decatur has always – since I’ve been here – it’s been in flux and there’s a lot of change. And I think a lot of that change frightens people.

Just quickly, what happened to me. I live in Winona Park and I used to go on walks in the morning. Five-thirty in the morning I’m out walking. I wanted to run but I never got up the energy to run so I just walk.

So I’m walking down the street and I see a police car. I’m on Mimosa [Drive] and I see a police car on Mimosa and Kirk [Road] in front of me so I stop and I take my ear buds out. And the police officer starts talking to me and as he’s talking to me, the second police car pulls up. And I thought, well this is kind of weird. I was like out walking and the day I was walking I literally saw like 15 people out walking around.

So two police cars in front of me and a police officer basically says, “Well we heard that someone was walking by Winona Park Elementary School with a gun.”

Well, I had a coffee mug with me. A white little coffee mug with a handle. And as I’m standing there and he’s telling me this, some of the other people who are walking, literally, in the neighborhood – I step aside to let them by and I’m literally stepping aside to let my neighbors walk by and I bump into a third police officer who is behind me.

To their credit, they were professional that day. In part, I think, to what the young lady was saying was they saw me – they saw I’m like a mid-40s guy. I wasn’t young. They saw that. Unfortunately, and I think one of the bigger issues in terms of the community that’s in flux, is that we have a lot of people in the community who see people like me. People like some of the other people who have spoken.

Your first call was when someone called you from the neighborhood.

And their first reaction is kind of like, oh, this just doesn’t look right. And that’s what gets to the first step of oh, this doesn’t look right. Call the police.

Fortunately for me and I’ve thought about this several times. Once you get to the point where this doesn’t look right – in a strange way and I know we’ve had a lot of complaints about the police – in a strange way, because my interaction with the police was when they saw my mug, they saw my mug as a mug. And they said go on about your way.

I’m glad that they called – the person who saw the my mug and thought it was a gun called the police instead of pulled out their gun and decided to do their own investigation, which can easily happen.

So all that’s to say is I think that the list of things that Don has mentioned, I think it’s important. I think we have to really be conscious about our community.

I tend to be optimistic to a fault. You know, I’m kind of like Anne Frank. I want to see the good in everybody. And so I really believe that there will always be some people who are doing bad because that’s just their issues. I think most people want to do good and I think there are ways – and some of the things that Don has outlined – there are ways where we can help those who are the majority of us, who want to do good. And there are ways in this list to find out if there are a couple of bad fruits. There are some ways of finding out who those people are and I think all of us should want to do that because we all – like I said, I’m optimistic. I think we all want a good community. We all want neighbors. We all want to be able to walk and have neighbors shake hands, be neighborly. And I think these things are important and they can help us do that.

Thank you.


Nibs Stroupe

Stroupe

I’m Nibs Stroupe. I’ve been the minister at Oakhurst Presbyterian for 31 years. I live at South Candler as my wife Caroline so eloquently put it earlier.

I hope you’ll take this seriously. I know that you will and I hope that you will consider giving us some leadership in the city of Decatur on this issue. I think we have five of our members – I call Meredith a young man, is an elder at our church. We have others that were named and not named who have all come forward and said these things are happening.

As I said before when Don came before, I wish I didn’t have to tell our associate pastor who we just hired, is a 34-year-old – 33-year-old, he reminded me – African American man to be very careful when he drives through Oakhurst because the police will be looking to stop him. I wish I didn’t need to tell him that. But I believe I need to do it and so I hope you will see these recommendations as an opportunity to lead on a very difficult issue because I think Decatur’s image of ourselves is we don’t have these kind of problems and I think you’re hearing testimony that we do and I hope you’ll help us, lead us, to a place where we won’t have these kind of problems.

So thank you.


 

Susan Firestone

Firestone

I am here representing Quakers for Racial Equality. We have been working with the new group that’s just formed, the Decatur Community Coalition. We’re supporting all the people who spoke about their profiling and the specific recommendations that were made.

Don referred to the little booklet that we did 10 years ago. Some people want to say that this is just a new issue because there are some new people moving into neighborhoods and the neighborhoods are changing but it’s been going on for a long, long time. Our congregation, Atlanta Friends Meeting, is at 704 Howard [Street] and members of our congregation, African American members and other members of color have spoken about being racially profiled in Decatur and some of them even said they didn’t want to come to this meeting because they were concerned about it to that extent.

Anyway, so some of them have said they have been racially profiled. So they’re folks – people who worship in Decatur, people who live in Decatur, people who commute through Decatur. There are so many ways it affects people so I’m just here to give my support to the specific recommendations and like Reverend Stroupe said to ask you to take this very seriously and move forward.


 

Wendy Heaps

Heaps

I actually came tonight to hear about something totally different, about the annexation. But I’m so glad that I stayed. I had no idea that this was going on in Decatur and I know for me as a resident, it’s a wake-up call. I am so shocked that this has happened to you all and I just want to say thank you for your courage for coming and to tell your story this evening.


 

Denise Bowden

Bowden

Decatur’s a great place. I love it. I love seeing the signs saying one of the ten greatest places in the U.S. to live. It makes me feel so good. But then I know there’s something under the carpet and y’all should know it and a lot of African American people do know it.

That we feel like we’re not wanted in Decatur. I’ve been in the Decatur area since about 1986 and as the south side changes, it gets even worse. I hope that you’ll pay attention to this and bring it to the attention of law enforcement.

Thank you.


 

Jane Royal

Royal

I lived in the city of Decatur for a long time. I’m Jane Royal, formerly Jane Royal Anderson, teacher in City of Decatur schools and a citizen for 23 years.

I come for my grandchildren. And your grandchildren who live in the city of Decatur. Because, one of the stories that came out of our first meeting at Oakhurst Presbyterian was told by a City Schools of Decatur staff person who works at Oakhurst [Elementary] School. And so, when I know that someone who will be teaching my kindergartener is subject to be racially profiled in this city, I have to come and say to you it’s time for us to stand together and provide some leadership that is truly needed in the city of Decatur – and in Avondale [Estates], where I now live.

Thank you.


 

© 2014 D.S. Rotenstein

2 thoughts on “Racism is alive and well in Decatur, Ga.

  1. This whole society is morphing towards the 1940’s “Jim Crow”….Its time for us to start speaking to each other, knowing each other better, and commisserating with each other so that we can witnesss for each other, support each other, protect each other, and teach that to our kids and y oung neighbors…otherwise,. this blatant stupid racism will not only continue, but accelerate…Local police departments are getting worse in the era of ‘cops’ who practice harassing Black people as some kind of game….be alert, witness police “misconduct, and speak to each other when we pass by….otherwise, this racial porfile witl
    accelerate, because , unfortunately, today’s “zeitgeist” (the tenor of the times”) is for certain whites and especially many (not all) of urban and mid-sized cities are developing subtle affronts to “take back’ their “social status”, and to many of them, that means doing whatever they can to “marginalize” Blacks , as they see Blacks as their “rivals” in climbing some sort of bourgoise ladder to return to the era of “Euro cultural Supremecy”…so organize, know your neighbors, and don’t worry about “outdoing” your neighbors…its thhat time again…..

    • Mzee, Thank you for your insightful comment. Your passage about areas taking back their “social status” goes to the core of the revanchist city perspective applied to gentrifying communities. Decatur is a prime example of the revanchist model, especially its Oakhurst neighborhood where wealthy white newcomers speak/write about taking back the neighborhood from the drug dealers, thugs, etc. The entire community is marked by racist rhetoric that spills out from neighborhood email lists onto blogs and into city hall (see Riffing on the Trail of Tears for a discussion of this). There’s a link in the post to an Oct. 2013 city commission meeting where a proposed moratorium on teardowns was discussed. Listen closely to the comments offered by the builders, realtors, and newer residents and how they describe the wonderful new neighbors moving to their community and contrast the descriptions to how they characterize the former residents and their homes. Decatur’s residents absolve themselves of their racism and privilege by invoking annual volunteer service during the MLK service project. By “swinging hammers” to effect cosmetic improvements on elderly African American residents’ homes, they can excuse their inaction throughout the rest of the year as gentrification and overt racism by the police and other residents make the city an undesirable place for many African Americans. In Decatur, “swinging hammers” is code for maintaining the status quo, which includes a racial ideology described by some researchers as “colorblind racism.” They swing hammers to take back their city.

      Also in Decatur, there’s little media attention paid to racism and profiling. As we get deeper into summer, one local blogger already has begun stoking the fire with a post on the Oakhurst Neighborhood Assn. FaceBook page. The blogger wrote an article about a crime in Oakhurst allegedly perpetrated by a group of African American teenagers. The title to his FB post was “I’m starting to get dejavu”:
      ONA FB post

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