Tyler Perry Proves Money & Success Can't Buy You Out of Racial Profiling

Tyler PerryRacial profiling is as standard to some black and brown people as oxygen and sunlight. Now it reportedly happened yet again, this time to movie mogul and all-around nice guy Tyler Perry, who says that Atlanta cops harassed him during a routine traffic stop last month. The complaint was originally posted on his Facebook page, and after garnering more than 117,000 “likes” and 22,000 comments, the story gained steam across the world wide web, which, as we all know, can make or break an accusation from the giddy-up. 

This particular space and time of heightened racial tensions and post-Trayvon Martin sensitivities is probably not the best atmosphere for metropolitan police departments to find themselves accused of "badgering" major black celebrities. 

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It’s one thing for it to be Damon down the street or Michelle from the office. But the man behind the Madea movie franchise happens to be the highest-paid entertainer according to Forbes magazine, so it’s a little different when he cries foul. So different in fact that Atlanta police are investigating the incident even though Perry hasn’t (yet) filed a formal complaint. Yet. And again, yet.

To his credit, Perry admits that he made an illegal left hand turn from the right hand lane as he was leaving his studio, a maneuver his security detail taught him to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He was though -- by cops, not stalkers or ne'er-do-wells -- and, according to Perry, it became quickly apparent that neither of the white officers who pulled him over had any clue who he was.

Under the impression that all they had on their hands was a basic, grade A, average, run-of-the-mill brother in a fancy car with dark tint, Perry said one policeman banged on his passenger window to get him to roll it down and the other tried to turn off the car engine. When he explained why he made the illegal move, they questioned why he felt he might be followed. It wasn’t until backup arrived -- because it always seems that cops call in the cavalry in these types of situations, even for one lil’ ol’ measly lone black guy -- that a third officer, who is black, got the “oh crap” expression on his face. He knew who was behind the wheel and, hence, understood what was hanging in the balance.

Naturally, Perry left the scene without being issued a ticket. But he had a heck of a story to share with his Facebook followers.  

Racial profiling is almost a rite of passage for black and brown folks. Heck, I’ve been on the receiving end of it myself, right on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike, a 23-year-old girl with a baby seat strapped in the back of a rattle trap Honda Civic. Clearly dangerous, I stood by while the officer rummaged through my car, down to the mail in my console, and as he got to the electric bill, he asked me who Mildred Harris was. I guess there was impending danger that I might’ve been scamming power from some unsuspecting source who, as I explained to him, was my Nana. Case closed.

After 15 wasted minutes and a series of questions about where I was going, why I was going there, and who I was headed to see, I was finally issued a speeding ticket -- because, unlike Tyler Perry, I wasn’t leaving empty-handed -- and sent along my freshly violated way.

Time will tell whether the Atlanta police handle this investigation with the attentiveness it deserves, but like all racially charged criminal cases hanging in the balance of the American justice system, I’m not expecting too much of a favorable outcome, not even for the powerful Tyler Perry. He is, after you strip down the riches and fame and accolades, just another black dude on the street.

Do you think celebrity claims of racial profiling help or hurt the average accuser?


Image via Frederick M. Brown/Getty

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