Does racial profiling happen in the East Bay ‘burbs? Yes, it has happened, according to San Ramon’s mayor

After all the debate and, uh, brew-ha-ha, over the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I’m not sure there is a whole lot left to say. However, one notable East Bay political leader asserts in a February 2007 interview that what is better known as racial profiling has been known to occur out here.

San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, speaking as a member of the Diablo Black Men’s Group and as a resident of the largely white San Ramon Valley, says that he himself had experienced forms of racial profiling in the decades he has been living in suburbia. The mayor, who lost the race for state Assembly to Joan Buchanan, adds that other members of his organization, African-American male suburbanites like himself, had dealt with situations in which they believe their race brought them unwarranted attention from police.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview, which you can read in full at the Diablo magazine website.

Q: I’ve heard stories about police in the San Ramon Valley randomly pulling over African American drivers. Has that happened to you?
A: Several times. Once, we were coming from a dance at the Diablo Country Club. This was in the late ’80s. I was with my wife and one of my colleagues and his wife. After the dance, I decided to show them downtown Danville. It was 1 or 1:30 in the morning. I noticed a police car following me. … Just before we got to the Livery, we were pulled over. He said I was speeding. I said, “No, I wasn’t speeding.” And then he said, “Where were you people coming from?” “What do you mean, ‘you people?’ ” Here I was in my tux, and he was asking me, “Do you own this car?”

Q: Were you arrested?
A: There was nothing to cite me for. I was stopped and harassed. I think [the officer] was taken aback that I was angry. I spoke to the [city manager] and police chief there, and sensitivity training was given to the police in Danville.

Q: Do these things still happen?
A: It hasn’t happened to me in the last 10 years. But I’m constantly hearing from friends in the area, who are not as visible as me, who are being pulled over.

35 thoughts on “Does racial profiling happen in the East Bay ‘burbs? Yes, it has happened, according to San Ramon’s mayor

  1. Interesting point of view from the Mayor of San Ramon…particularly since I stopped him a few months ago for not wearing a seatbelt and his response was to point at his name tag and say, “This is who I am.”

    The name tag displayed his name, obviously, and his title of San Ramon Mayor. He was on his way to some political function.

    I regretted not citing him at the time, but I didn't (and shame on me) because I didn't want to deal with the political bs that would have happened as a result.

    –East Bay Police Officer


  2. Nice to hear that cronyism is a live and well among the East Bay Police Departments. Wonder how many of his buddies this officer decides not to cite?


  3. Same ol' excuse mentality. Now our President is teaching it to other black men and woman. It's not about racial profiling, it's about black leaders like Obama, Sharpton and Jackson not losing their power base. There always has to be a boogieman out to get blacks (cops in this case) so great “leaders” like these can fight to free them oppression. What they should be teaching is personal responsibility and parenting skills to young blacks killing each other in the cities.


  4. 12:42 what are doing blogging now? Shouldn't you be ironing your sheets for your Klan rally tonight?

    If you can't see that people get different treatment based on physical appearances even today than you are simply closing your eyes to reality.

    11:18 you actually raise a different point. Of course some people expect a different treatment based on their status. I'm sure this expectation is not rase based, meaning you can see this among all races. I'm sure you have heard the “don't you know who I am” speech from all kind of people.

    If you want to link this to the Gates Jr. incident I actually think we have seen both phenomena in a certain way. I think Gates exactly behaved in the “Don't you know who I am” way. But at the same time I'm also sure that based on his particular experience as a black man Gates perceived the questioning by police in his home as racial profiling.

    I actually would have expected from a seasoned officer to be aware of the situation and to try to not escalate the situation. And given the fact that all charges against Gates Jr. had been dismissed by the DA actually prior to Obama being questioned by the reporter, I too would think in retrospect arresting Gates was not the smartest thing to do.

    Too bad that patriotic Americans rather than work with Obama to further our country seem to be hellbent to find anything to criticize.


  5. Come on now people it actually has nothing and I mean NOTHING to do with race.

    We (as a nation) elected an individual, Obama, from the Chicago political machine. We have gotten all the corruption, ill-dealing, and unfortunate outcomes that we deserve.

    You can take the politician out of Chicago, but you can't take the corruption out of the chicago politician.


  6. Anon 11:18,

    If you or any police officer you are in contact with this guy and he is not wearing a seatbelt, YOU CITE HIM!

    If he is in a car accident and is knocked out of the driver seat, he cannot stop his car. If that car kills my one of my children, I will make sure that someone is held accountable for not doing their job, even if it is an officer.


  7. 9:02 I must say this is the most creative interpretation I have ever heard of the seat belt law. But what would you do if the car without the driver would hit a space alien who was just in the process to drag one of your children into a spaceship? Would you then make sure that the officer not having cited the mayor of San Ramon would get a special award?


  8. Anon 8:26 that is cute when a racist like you starts with a statement that it has nothing to do with race.

    Sure now we have a corrupt government, I mean just compare it to the last eight years. Come on we all know what you mean by corrupt, ill dealing and unfortunate. You really think you can hide your racism behind such codewords?


  9. To the officer who didn't cite the black mayor, that actually makes you racist because he is more likely to die in an accident. You should have cited him for his own protection and safety. He may have even thanked you later. Sometimes powerful people do stupid things, and the best thing you could have done would be to cite him.

    And who knows, you might have even gotten an invitation from Obama for a beer, or maybe just Schwarzenegger?


  10. This country is going right down the shit-hole and it has nothing to do with who is president.

    It has ALL to do with the crazy wackadoo libs who think my hard earned money should be “redistributed” to some lazy welfare recipient.

    Liberals can suck it!


  11. Interesting the directions this discussion is going, from a comment from an East Bay police officer who says he had his own encounter with Mayor Wilson to comments on Obama's leadership to the direction that our country is going.

    Not sure what it all means. Lots of frustration related to issues the Gates' arrest brought up, I suppose. Maybe another reader could put it all together.

    Meanwhile, I'm listening to Brian Copeland's show on KGO radio with one of the organizers of the so-called “birther” movement. Is THAT issue even worth continued debate?

    And I call myself Crazy


  12. Let's clear something up…

    Wilson is not the only person I've warned in the past. My job is to make the streets safe for everyone. Sometimes that means writing a ticket and sometimes it means issuing a warning.

    As I stated, in retrospect, perhaps I should have cited him and political fallout be damned. Sometimes, it makes my job harder than it needs to be.

    –East Bay Police Officer


  13. How can you be so naive Soccer Mom? Of course if you raise a race issue it will quickly morph into discussions about Obama. Do you really think we have moved on to a post racial society? And there is plenty of racism still alive here in the burbs. What do you think the birther movement is all about?

    Don't you follow the Claycord blog? It is a little more overt there, here it might be slightly more tuned down and thinly veiled with terms like corrupt, welfare etc.


  14. It is rather difficult to move beyond the racial issues when the leader of the free world seems to only identify with his black father. Seldom do we hear about his white mother. Guess it is more glorious to be a “first” in any endeavor. Who cares? It is really important to constantly remind everyone that Obama is the “first” black president? Why are people identified as black, white, gay, straight, male, female etc.? Just get on with the job you have chosen to do, do the best you can and forget about all the other crap.

    At the end of the day, the only reason that this whole issue got blown out of proportion is that Mr. Obama spoke before he thought, then didn't have the good manners to apologize outright for his inappropriate remarks. White House wonks did their boss no service with their advice nor did they respect the American people who might just have had the good judgement to think for themselves and sort the whole thing out. A minor arrest became a major festering wound because of politics and our esteemed leader also chose the most political way in which to cover his mistakes.


  15. I don't know if the corrupt politics of the Chicago political machine have anything to do with race. Have you all heard of Mayor Dailey?

    Anyway, the Chicago political machine has been corrupt for a long, long, time. Even before the birth of Obama, (wherever that may have been 😉 )

    I wouldn't trust a Chicago politician as far as I could throw him or her.


  16. Anon 3:43 no matter how much you repeat the Glenn Beck / Michael Savage sewage it doesn't make it true.

    I'm really glad you distinguish between major/minor arrests, but for me you are still a major racist.


  17. I have a minority coworker that is employed by a public agency. She was driving to another public agency via Crow Canyon Road. She was pulled over in San Ramon for no reason, questioned, and allowed to leave without citation.

    This was about three years ago.


  18. 6:06 –

    I do not watch Fox news, Glen Beck and certainly have never listened to Michael Savage. I prefer to read my news and then form my opinions.

    I know it sounds trite…..but I am not a racist in any form. Does that mean that I have never told a joke dealing with race……no. Does that mean that I have never used racist names for people….no. Will you admit to doing the same????

    I do, however, try my hardest to treat everyone the same no matter what so please don't call me a racist when you don't even know me.

    All of us at some time have suffered descrimination of some sort. It is not all about the color of one's skin…..fat/skinny….red hair
    and freckles…cross eyed….rich/poor….and on and on and on. My heritage is half German….how do you think my Grandfather was treated when he arrived in the USA just before the First World War? How were the Irish treated upon their arrival in the 1800's after fleeing the potato famine? Try being a Gypsy anywhere in the world. How about our friends from the Middle East who try to blend in to our culture?

    All in all, I think we as a nation do a pretty darned good job of accepting people for who they are. If you witness an injustice, do what you can to make it right. By all means teach your children to respect others and give everyone a fair chance in life.


  19. 7:26 you should listen to yourself. Are you truly comparing the history of your German grandfather immigrating to the US before WWI with the slavery and civil rights struggle of blacks? Now you wanted to know if I have in contrast to you racist tendencies myself? Of course being white I freely admit I do experience a strange feeling if I encounter a group of black men at night in a Oakland neighborhood,

    We all grew up in a different time and I'm not surprised that this is imprinted on our behavior. I'm not making excuses for it on either side.

    But maybe it wouldn't hurt to consider their history in judging the behavior of others.


  20. 8:17….

    I have very good reasons to compare my German grandfatther's experiences to anyone elses when it comes to bigotry. He was spat upon, couldn't get a job, laughed at for his poor use of english and in the end changed his last name thinking he would be able to fit in better. He did menial work most of his life and was able to support a family through very hard labor. He lived long enough to see his only child (who started working at age 12) go to college. He died at age 48 after losing everything he owned to the Depression but with the satisfaction that he had made a better life for himself by living the American Dream. His closest friends were Pomo Indians who he lived next to and who taught him to farm.

    He left a very wonderful legacy to all of his descendants; accept people for who they are, how they live their lives and how they treat you.

    Don't be so quick to pass judgment on me or anyone else as very few people came to this country in first class with the means and tools necessary to attain success. Most overcame their backgrounds through sheer determination and hard work and gave us better lives. May we do the same for our descendants.


  21. 8:44
    Of course you should cherish the memory of your grandfather, and I'm sure he overcame a lot through hard work and determination. While I have no reason not to believe that he was not fully accepted because of his poor use of the English language and because of his germanic name, he could overcome these obstacles, or at least his child could overcome it and go to college. Now imagine the reason he was not accepted would have been the pigmentation of his skin? No matter how much he would have wanted to overcome this he could not have done. Also his child would not have been able to change his race.

    Thats exactly the point of racism, you can't change your race no matter how much you work. We all have encountered bigotry in one form or another but the worst form of it is based on race, gender or religion (and some of us would also include sexual orientation) because we can't change these things.

    Now of course the country has made great strides but a lot of the bigotry still exists and sometimes it is also hard to shake the emotional baggage we all carry around.


  22. “the worst form of it is based on race, gender or religion (and some of us would also include sexual orientation) because we can't change these things.”

    OK, genius, tell me why can't we change our religion? Oh, and we can change our gender too, dum-dum.

    George Washington Carver seemed to overcome quite a bit by the way.


  23. 10:30 – – “the worst form of it is based on race, gender or religion (and some of us would also include sexual orientation) because we can't change these things.”

    Can I change the long, ugly scar that runs down my face due to a drujnk driver? Do you think I don't see people diverting their eyes when they pass me on the street or children tugging on their parents hands then whispering? I have not changed as a nice, fun loving person on the inside but many people never know that because they can't look past my appearance.

    It is not all about race. Each of us carries aour own burden to some extent. It is how we deal with it that determines how we are treated, most of the time. I figure that those who cannot handle my disfigurement are the losers and that is how I live a happy and productive life.


  24. “I figure that those who cannot handle my disfigurement are the losers and that is how I live a happy and productive life.”

    Wait a second, how is a parent whispering to a child who pointed at you a “loser”? Maybe get off your high-horse and think for a minute that it's not polite to stare and point at someone like that, and the parent was just letting their kid know this.


  25. I did not say that it was the parents who were whispering and even if that were the case, it is still somewhat painful. It is my fervent hope that parents will teach their children that in some way we are all different and that we should accept people for who they are. When dealing with children who may stare at me or shrink back from me, I always smile nicely and say hello in a kindly manner in the hope that this behavior is also a “teaching moment” and that they will put my different appearance aside. I most often find children more accepting than their parents.

    As to my high horse….want to walk a few days in my shoes? I am not perfect, but since this happened to me I am certainly more tolerant of others and their differences.

    I would hope that you can also find the way in your life to think of others first and how your actions and words may affect them.


  26. If a person is not in control of their car because they are drunk, it is their fault.

    If a person is ejected from their vehicle and could have feasibly stopped, it is their fault.

    Seatbelts protect not only the driver, but also the passengers and other drivers around the vehicle until it comes to a stop.

    Prevention of collateral damage is the purpose of this law, not to save the life of the driver.


  27. 7:26,

    I find the most interesting thing about your post is that it is about people who CHOSE to come to America. Many, I don't know, most? of our AA population is descended from people who didn't choose to come here.

    They didn't choose to have 'colored' drinking fountains, schools, and facilities.

    My dad was in the military and was stationed in France in the mid to late 1950's. They were hated and discriminated against, but they would never compare that to the suffering Blacks have suffered throughout America's history.

    It just ain't the same.


  28. Of course it does. In communities with small Black populations, they stand out. We notice them because their different than the rest of us. Colorblind my ass. I don't think that there is such a thing as colorblindness. We'll always see people's physical exterior. It's how we respond to those people. It's the fear and distrust.

    Any significant first is and should be celebrated by all. It's silly to say that Obama is denying is White heritage somehow. The fact is that when we look at BHO, we see a Black man. That is why he and we identify him as a Black man.

    I think it's pretty obvious that he loved his grandparents and mother and acknowledged that they loved and supported him.

    1:23 is correct about Gates and Obama.

    The problem is Whites fear the changing racial demographics in the US; hence, now White's are claiming to be victims of racism. It would be comical if not ridiculous.

    12:42 is wrong if (s)he thinks that opportunities are equal among races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.


  29. Not sure I'm buying this story, Danville Police are the worst and habitually pull any and every car over late on weekends on made up reasons. Trying to point out one pull over in the '80's as signs of systemic racism is pretty weak. That “this is who I am” story makes me ill, yes you are the mayor of a shitty little suburb.


  30. I learned something new here. I had no idea who the San Ramon Mayor was, nor did I know he is a Black Man. Oh, well.


  31. Just because someone claims they are the victim of racism or accuse another of racism to deflect attention or blame away from their own shortcomings does not make it true.

    1. Prof. Gates injected race into the situation, not the cop.

    2. Obama should have kept his nose out of it completely. He had no business saying one thing about it.

    3. Prof. Gates got arrested basically for being an ass.


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