Cops threw him onto a police car and slammed his cousin against a brick wall several times. The New York Police Department arrested Bryonn Bain in front of a corner store where a fight had occurred earlier that night and for a crime he didn’t commit.
But Bain doesn’t know what was worse because later that night he said he was insulted when the police officer at the station asked him where Bain stole his laptop.
Bain told USF students Tuesday night how he became a victim of racial profiling when he was a law student at Harvard.
“The whole night, the cops were giving us a hard time, and for the next five months we had to go to court to defend ourselves,” Bain said. “When he asked me what I had a laptop for, I told him I was a Harvard student, and he said, ‘You must be on a scholarship then.'”
But Bain wasn’t on a scholarship. He said his mother worked two to three jobs to give him an education and support his family.
Bain thought he had seen the worst until the Sept. 11 attacks, which he said subjected a larger population to racial profiling.
“Tactics are being employed to people of color and just in general,” Bain said. “Sept. 11 is just the beginning of much more to come.”
Religious groups, such as Muslims, Bain said, have suffered the most because of the notion that they had ties to Sept. 11 and to terrorism.
“You cannot equate any religion with terrorism,” Bain said. “It is important to realize major religions have been used as tools to exploit people in the media.”
Bain’s experience with racial profiling in 1998 led him to write a poem about the situation. Since then, poetry has been a way for him to express injustices he sees.
A poem he recited about receiving a call from the devil while getting a call from “Uncle Sam” on the other line made reference to how capitalism in the United States has caused some blacks to suffer from poverty.
“We are living in a material world,” Bain said, ending the poem.
While poetry is often a way for him to express himself, Bain said justice comes from making people aware of unjust situations.
“In order to live with a clean conscience, it is important that we speak out against injustice,” Bain said.