The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Driving While Black

Jun 17, 2024

For twenty years, Illinois has required its police departments to track the race of drivers in traffic stops. The official figures confirm what black drivers know well—black drivers are pulled over way out of proportion to their share of the population. According to those figures, the proportion of black drivers stopped increased from 17.5% in 2004 to 30.5% in 2022.

Last summer, five Black and Latino drivers in Chicago, working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a discrimination lawsuit, between them they had been pulled over 50 times in six years. Mahari Bell, a driver for Uber Eats, was pulled over three times in four days.

Police traffic stops in Chicago rose dramatically starting in 2016. In 2015, the Chicago Police Department settled another discrimination lawsuit, where the ACLU showed that the police department used “Stop and Frisk” tactics against pedestrians in a racist way. The police department pivoted: they moved away from pedestrian stops to pulling over drivers in black neighborhoods for minor traffic infractions, as an excuse to search vehicles for drugs or guns. In only one out of every 156 stops—0.6%—police recovered a gun.

We live in a deeply racist society. Poverty and its attendant crime are concentrated in black neighborhoods. Heavy handed, blanket policing in those neighborhoods falls on many working people just going about their business. It’s because the police function in this capitalist society is to keep a lid clamped down on problems that their society creates, not to “serve” or “protect” the working class.