Beyond the Rhetoric
By Harry C. Alford
A few weeks ago, in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, D.C., C. Nicole Mason was hosting a party during the Memorial Day weekend. Her neighbor called the police and complained of loud noise. Usually this would cause a citation order, which would require her to go see a judge and possibly face a fine. But this policeman had other plans for this Black female living in the richest zip code in Washington, D.C. He took her to the local police station where “she was photographed, fingerprinted and briefly put into a cell” according to the Washington Post. She later received a formal apology from D.C.’s Chief of Police.
Bsides humiliation and mistreatment Ms. Mason probably doesn’t know the worst thing that happened to her. She was fingerprinted. That will cause a lifetime of disruption. When you get finger printed by police the results are sent to the FBI headquarters for entry into their database and will stay there forever. If she is up for a prominent assignment to a governmental board or a position that requires a security clearance the “arrest” is going to pop up. Not the unnecessary and stupid fingerprinting done by an admonished policeman. It will be assumed a criminal arrest. That could be next week or 15 years from now. It is there and it will never be expunged.
Minorities in this nation are plagued by this kind of unnecessary action on an ongoing basis. The fact is there are millions of young minorities who get into the FBI database and those fingerprinting records are there to stay. Even if you were not indicted; not convicted; case thrown out or even all charges are erased from your records. Those fingerprints remain in that FBI database and will be reported via any simple background check. The person receiving the report will think “arrest” and nothing positive is going to come out of this.
This alone is perhaps the biggest contributor to unemployment for the minority population. As an African American, I have seen far too many times that relatives of mine were thwarted from good job opportunities and the possibility of real wealth. It is an assault on minority employment with severe generational and economic consequences. How many times have some of my relatives been hired by a reputable corporation, worked two months and then suddenly been escorted from the premises (background report arrived) to never come back.
My sons matriculated at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland. The majority (majority!) of their Black alumni have been picked up and fingerprinted for one stupid thing or another. The clear majority usually spent a few hours in holding or were released the following morning. Little do they know that the fingerprinting that was done may come back to haunt them.
I have written about the rideshare industry and how it has grown tremendously. Uber, Lyft and now others are filling a great need in this world. It is some of the best stock you can buy. What is even better they have hired a massive number of minorities as drivers. I can’t think of another industry other than the NFL and the NBA that has a higher percentage of minorities on their hiring rolls. So, what has their competition been trying to do? They want these drivers to be fingerprinted knowing that a large percentage will no longer take part in this employment boom. This is sinister! Watch out. There are state legislators that, for some reason, are starting to “kick around” the idea of blocking ex-offenders and denying them re-entry into society.
I applaud other elected officials who are getting involved in this “re-entry” issue involving ex-offenders. Many want companies to “remove the box” on applications that ask if you have ever been arrested. That may make everyone feel good but the day of reckoning will come when the company routinely requests an FBI background check. They may want to hire the applicant but the HR policy or insurance requirements may demand the check and that calls off all employment chances for many.
The future of our nation depends on a successful re-entry program for our ex-offenders. More importantly, records should be accurate and detailed. They are not. It is just “cut and dry” with no other considerations. When one serves his time, he should be given a new start. Punishment becomes torture if there is no way out or forgiveness. Our civil rights organizations should establish policy about this issue and become very active in the needed advocacy.
Parents, why do we allow such evilness to haunt our children. Let’s come together and make this world a much better place.
Mr. Alford is the co–founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: [email protected].