Student tasered at UCLA
If you haven’t heard already, an Arab American of Iranian descent studying at UCLA was tasered by campus police for not being able to produce student ID. This incident happened at 3:00am in the library and was caught on tape by a fellow student using the camera on their cell phone. If you ever needed a reason to be called to do something about anything, please watch this video.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times,
Senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, was asked by Duren and other university police officers for his ID as part of a routine nightly procedure to make sure that everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise authorized to be there.
Tabatabainejad’s attorney, Stephen Yagman, said his client was shocked five times with the Taser after he refused to show his ID because he thought he was being singled out for his Middle Eastern appearance. Tabatabainejad is of Iranian descent but is a U.S. citizen by birth and a resident of Los Angeles.
Why should you care? Admittedly, I and no one else are privy to all of the facts in this case, but there a few things I know for sure and why you should care.
You should care because Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out to us in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is especially poignant because since 9/11, the long standing understated joke in the Black community is that racial profiling directed towards Blacks was now being directed towards Arab-Americans. But this joke really isn’t funny because if you really think that we have come so far that Black peI am sure it was not just a coincidence that of all the students in the library, the police singled out Mostafa. Just think about all the times you were pulled over or otherwise questioned for no other apparent reason then your being a person of color? Racial fault lines are saturated within the smile lines across people’s faces. If it can happen to Mostafa, it can happen to Tyrone.
The sad part of this story is that I doubt if there would be nearly as much attention paid to this story were it not caught on camera. This is indicative of the powerful impact of media priming. Try this thought experiement. How was it so many people were convinced that Iraq had WMDs when there was (and still is) no evidence to support this view but the public at large doesn’t think racism/racial profiling exists unless there is some indisputable proof via video. (e.g. Kramer from Seinfield, Rodney King, Blacks being hosed down in the streets and having dogs sicked on them, etc.) You know that there is injustice in this world so don’t wait until you get an email where the subject reads, “You won’t believe this!” Seek it out, spread the word, and take actions to make sure that perpetrators of injustice know they are not safe from accountability.
I have had conversations with people that tried to argue being tasered once was OK but the multiple uses of the taser were unacceptable. I wish you could have seen the steam rising from the top of my head. First off, there were four officers. Let me repeat that, there were four officers! This shows me that even if the student refused arrest, (which he didn’t) you can’t tell me that four officers could not have carried the student out of the library. If you noticed from the video, officers kept screaming, “Stand up!” My hunch is that the student went limp as a form of non violent protest and was summarily tasered repeatedly for doing so. Either way, the student didn’t do anything that warranted being tasered…period.
The other problem I have is a matter of racial symbolism. The cop who used the taser is a Black man and an 18-year old veteran of the UCLA campus police. Now I know that from the days of Kid n’ Play, there is widespread disrespect for so-called rent-a-cops, but this is besides the point. Now if anyone should be sensitive to racial profiling, I would expect a Black man to say something before the team went out.
The other problem I have is that it feels like White-dominated power structures are directing conflicts between Black and Brown people. Let me know what you think.