The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wants to make sure that young people can walk the streets safe from the dangers of racial profiling, even if they are in a hoodie—no matter what neighborhood they find themselves in.
Local chapters of the NAACP celebrated National Hoodie Day in front of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. statue at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains Tuesday to bring awareness to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.
“Anyone who wears a hood and walks in a certain neighborhood may find themselves in jeopardy, and that’s not the American way,” said Lena Anderson, president of the White Plains-Greenburgh NAACP. “We will not stop talking about Trayvon, we will not let Danroy Henry’s death go unaccounted for, we will not let Ken Chamberlain’s death go unaccounted for.”
, 17, was killed while wearing a hoodie on Feb. 26 in a confrontation with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman, who has not been charged in the incident and says he acted in self-defense, admitted to fatally shooting the unarmed teen. The incident has become the focus of national and international attention, as some say the shooting was racially motivated.
Chamberlain, 68, was shot to death by police in his apartment, at the Winbrook housing complex at 135 S. Lexington Ave., on Nov. 19 after police responded to Chamberlain’s medical alert device. Police said that Chamberlain threatened police with a hatchet and a knife, forcing police to Tase and use a bean bag gun on him before he was fatally shot.
Chamberlain’s family said that police used racial slurs against Chamberlain, who told police that he was fine and didn’t need help. Chamberlain’s family said he was unarmed when police broke into his apartment and killed him.
“Trayvon’s case, even though he was not killed by a policeman, is a reflection of the attitude that prevailed in the Kenneth Chamberlain case,” said Anderson.
Anderson said the main issue is the false fear of minorities and “white privilege.”
“Some people in America who don’t feel they are racist have to see something called ‘white privilege,’” said Anderson.“It’s when you’re shopping in an elevator and you hold onto your purse and cringe if a black person gets on the elevator with you. It creates an unreasonable fear. Seeing a group of white teens does not elicit this same fear, so that’s where the connection is—in the attitude of the people who killed them.”
Anderson said that the NAACP wants to see fair investigations, accountability and to keep discussing this issue to raise awareness and ultimately end racial profiling.
“Those of us who are more protected from racism must work alongside our neighbors who are more hurt by it, and they must be aware that we’re hurt by it too,” said Julie Carran of White Plains, co-chair of the board of directors of the Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence.
Even though it took four and a half months, Carran said she was pleased that White Plains Mayor Tom Roach finally spoke out on Chamberlain’s death after Chamberlain supporters showed up to a White Plains Common Council meeting.
“I am glad that public officials are hearing our voices and responding to our voices, “ said Carran. “We will continue to be vigilant.
Those from White Plains at the rally said they could relate to hearing about someone being singled out, because they live in a specific neighborhood. Mayo Bartlett, an attorney for the Chamberlain family, represents individuals who live in the Winbook housing complex where he says people are constantly harassed by police.
Melvin Smith, who was born and raised in White Plains, said he has experienced this harassment at the Winbrook housing complex. He said he is scared for local children living in these neighborhoods, and for the next kid who reaches for his cell phone in front of a police officer.
“I have children and I don’t want my child or anyone else’s child being shot dead for being African American, Hispanic, Jewish, Italian,” said Smith, who has worked for Westchester County for 12 years and has worked with the City for eight. “We should be able to live our life in peace, love, joy and happiness with one another and have unity. Parents shouldn’t have to worry whether or not their child is going to come home.”
John Reavis, president of the Port Chester NAACP, said he doesn’t understand why police used such force when responding to a medical alert, and questions why police withheld the officer’s name who shot Chamberlain when that officer was already involved in a police brutality suit. Police have stated they are confident that investigations will showed that they acted properly.
“It’s not logical in terms of what they’ve [police] been doing," said Reavis. "I believe guns should be taken away from policemen and they should go back to bully sticks. The real issue is we need to make people aware of the fact that we’re all human beings. When you treat one person wrong, irrespective of color, you’re treating everyone else the same way.”