In “Safer roads take a back seat to Beacon Hill drama” (Sept. 30), the Globe Editorial Board claims that lawmakers in “progressive Massachusetts” should be “embarrassed” by efforts to ensure that comprehensive data collection accompany pending hands-free driving legislation.
In a state whose Supreme Judicial Court ruled that black men may flee police to avoid the “recurring indignity of being racially profiled,” counseling expedience over transparency and ignoring the established inequity in law enforcement is to have one’s editorial head in the sand.
According to national data from the Stanford Open Policing Project, compared with white drivers, black drivers are 20 percent more likely to be ticketed for speeding, Hispanic drivers are 30 percent more likely to be ticketed, and black and Hispanic drivers are twice as likely to be searched.
The Globe, in its online headline, dismissively caricatures insistence on data collection as “data drama,” but the real drama plays out on our streets every day as people of color are unequally policed at every turn, whether driving or on foot. “Progressive” Massachusetts should be embarrassed by its consistent resistance to addressing systemic racism.
The Globe follows well-worn but discredited logic that increased policing is the path to public safety, regardless of inequity. This leaves the Commonwealth’s population of color to question: Public safety for whom? Our collective safety depends on bias-free policing as much as hands-free driving, and collecting and publishing the data called for in the Senate version of this legislation is the very least we can do to demand it.
David J. Harris
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
Harvard Law School