News

Editorial: Racial profiling in our own backyard

 

From "BBQ Becky" at Lake Merritt to a Starbucks employee in Philadelphia, accounts of police being called on black people trying to go about their daily lives have been well-documented.

Last week, the Voice published a story on an apparent racial profiling incident in our own backyard. On July 8, Sunnyvale resident Erika Martin, her sister Faith Martin-Ware and their children were stopped in their car trying to leave the Safeway on Shoreline Boulevard by police investigating a theft reported by store employees.

According to a heavily redacted Mountain View Police Department incident report, employees and customers in the store believed the family had sent the children in to grab items off the shelves and take them back to the car, and that the kids reportedly stocked a cart full of goods as a ruse to create a distraction. Police were told Martin entered Safeway and headed toward the back of the store, and that at one point she "made eye contact" with a black man in his 30s who was also considered a possible shoplifter. The initial call to police indicated the man may have known Martin and her family, arousing suspicion that they could be working together on the purported heist.

In reality, there was no ruse, no theft. Not only was Martin never in the Safeway in the first place -- she waited in the car while her relatives shopped -- but she was never given a description of the individuals supposedly involved or the items taken from the store. The children weren't running in to create a diversion -- they wanted to ask Safeway bakery staff for a free cookie. The adults were there on a mission of mercy, dropping off hygiene products and other items for homeless people on their way home from a church service in Palo Alto.

Police blocked the family's car and told Martin she was "associated" with a reported theft before asking a series of questions about the alleged theft. Officers spoke with the store manager, who told police she saw a woman taking things from the store but couldn't say what was taken. After about 26 minutes, police determined the theft report had no merit and Martin and her family were free to go.

It appears Mountain View police responded appropriately to what was reported as a possible theft in progress at the Shoreline Safeway, where they say they've responded to 10 theft calls over the last year. (Although police initially told the Voice that officers had only stopped the family for 10 minutes, when in fact it was closer to half an hour, according to Martin and the department's incident report).

While we don't entirely know Safeway's side of the story -- Shoreline store employees declined to comment and referred the Voice to a company spokeswoman who issued an apology without mentioning the family -- this apparent case of racial profiling bears resemblance to the incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks earlier this year. Like Martin and her family, the two black men arrested and accused of trespassing at the coffee shop were deemed suspicious when they were merely going about their business.

The incidents shed light on uncomfortable truths -- that people of color are often accused of wrongdoing based on their race, and bystanders can easily become complicit. Amidst the hashtags and social media outrage that these cases often spawn, there's an opportunity for increased self-awareness. Everyone can -- and should -- examine the biases that affect how we treat each other. We can also stop being bystanders and start standing up for each other when these situations develop.

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Comments

15 people like this
Posted by Tanya
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 7, 2018 at 11:58 am

This is nothing but click bait and comment bait. Slow news day.


10 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 7, 2018 at 12:14 pm

That Safeway sucks for sooooo many reasons


72 people like this
Posted by Nah
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2018 at 12:55 pm

it's a lousy store that has to deal with many lousy [people every day. I would have low tolerance for any perceived shenanigans as well. It's like when you're area keeps getting hit with burglaries. eventually you start calling the cops on anyone who stops to just use their cell phone on your street. This particular instance is a non-story.


10 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Aug 7, 2018 at 2:29 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


9 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2018 at 2:41 pm

It does not only happen to people of color. Profiling, not just racial, occurs frequently. Just ask people who are relaxing in a park when the police tell them a neighbor complained that her kids were scared.


15 people like this
Posted by Johnny Mac
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Just because someone screams "Problem" does not mean it is always so.
Insults mask other things.


4 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2018 at 2:51 pm

I can’t believe some of the people on this discussion. Racial profiling is prevalent in our society as we see increased violence against minorities and innocent citizens of our country being harassed by paranoid employees and some rogue police officers, not the majority, who racially profile people on a daily basis. They say there are lousy people at the Shoreline Safeway is really a racist comment. If you’ve never been followed in store because I think you might be shoplifting then you’re one of the lucky ones. My friends and I have been harassed for many different reasons, race, appearance are only two examples. During this
.period in our country it seems like racial profiling and deep seeded racism is coming more acceptable. Please think of all the people out there who deserve to live their lives do good things and not be profiled for their parents their race their sexualit please think of all the people out there who deserve to live their lives do good things and not be profiled for their appearance their race Or their sexual identity. Please just give this a chance and be kind to all our citizens.


42 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Mary, do you too truly not realize that you are reading slants *of* *your* *own* into the comments above, and that this behavior is part of the very problem around the slippery "racial profiling" issue that others here are commenting on?

Many residents notice transient, marginal, possibly homeless people around the parking lot at Bailey-Park Safeway (I have seen them; FWIW in my experience, and other reports I've seen, these people have been ethnically diverse but mostly white). Yet when "Nah" mentions this familiar reality, you immediately label the comment "racist." There was nothing remotely race-related in the comment you criticized -- that aspect of it came from your own perception.


8 people like this
Posted by Alex N
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 7, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Thanks to the Voice Editorial Board for writing this. It is true that being black/brown in America means your very existence is suspect.

Some of the comments above indicate to me that there are still many vocal elements and people in our society who either have not taken, or refuse to take the time to acknowledge and think about the ways race affects interactions with other people.


3 people like this
Posted by Let's face it
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 7, 2018 at 4:02 pm

Let's face it. Mtn View has a lot of liberal elite wealthy residents who are racist. No big surprise. The employees of Safeway r just reflecting the sentiment of Mtn. View residents and the city council. This is especially true of the no growth groups. They think they are special and that they should be the ones that decide who gets to lives in Mtn View.


18 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 7, 2018 at 4:06 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

This section is supposed to be Top Stories (aka NEWS), and not OPINION. There already is far too much opinion labeled as news in today's NEWS media. If The Voice wants to print opinion and follow journalistic ethics, it should start a third section to Express labeled --- "Opinion". Duh! Hopefully, it won't be used very often.


5 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm

The only stealing going on at that Safeway is my time being stolen from waiting in those LONG LINES


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Aug 7, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


161 people like this
Posted by Bill for short
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2018 at 6:00 am

@William Hitchens >>> "This section is supposed to be Top Stories (aka NEWS), and not OPINION. "

The first word in the headline is "Editorial". The very definition of that means it is an opinion piece, a common practice in newspapers all over the world since, well, forever. It's not uncommon for them to be on the front page either.
Read every word in the story, even the headline and most importantly, look up the words you do not understand.

Editorial: a newspaper article written by or on behalf of an editor that gives an opinion on a topical issue.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne
a resident of Whisman Station
on Aug 8, 2018 at 11:22 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


26 people like this
Posted by Bill H
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 9, 2018 at 7:44 am

Bill H is a registered user.

I don't entirely agree, but I appreciate having a local newspaper that brings local context to national issues.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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