I think a lot of it is trying to see if there is a community group.
There is a problem of a shooting death of a Salvadoran that I am in the process of doing an
assessment on right now. I'm trying to find out who is the community? Who's the leadership? Is
this an issue to the community?
Is there always a community?
When we can't find one, we're really not going to do much other than conciliation, probably
with the police or other authorities. That's when we may be getting into some training or
technical assistance. We're probably not going to be able to go further than that because we can't
bring anyone else to the table. You get bits and pieces, but there is no group.There was an article
in the paper of an African-American reporter who was stopped by the police while interviewing a
person along side the road. The article written by the reporter stated that the police stopped him
and it was racial profiling. The policeman said, and this was in the article, that he stopped them
because a motorist passing by reported that the reporter had a gun. That was in the paper. It took
place in a small community, but I didn't know if there was any type of community organization
there. So I called the NAACP, which we had worked with and asked, "What do you think of
this? Do you have any problems? They said, "Oh, yeah, that's a problem!" "What can we do
about it?" I asked. "Are there any community organizations or groups that you're working with
down there?" He said he would check it out. It ended up there was really nobody, other than the
reporter, in that community who was interested in dealing with that issue. We did not have a
local community group dealing with this issue. In the subsequent meetings on this issue, the
community was just the NAACP and the reporter. So, it's who is
taking the leadership; who are the real players in these incidents. Sometimes we go by who
comes forward and is willing to address the problem. I remember one of the problems with
which I was involved in my hometown of Wellesley, MA. One of the cases there was with Dee
Brown, a basketball player with the Boston Celtics. He was stopped as the alleged bank robber
who robbed a bank in Wellesley the day before. It led to a celebrated case in the paper. There
was a lot of publicity. Into that process came a public meeting which the selectmen held in
Wellesley at which the issue of the police treatment of him was discussed. The police were
defending their procedures. But the major issue that came out of the meeting was that other
members of the African-American community came forward and said that they had been stopped
driving through Wellesley. The issue was racial profiling even though we didn't call it that then.
There was a real problem. From that meeting, one leader reached out and helped convene a
group of African Americans, some who testified. They became the community group. Was
everyone reached out to? No, not necessarily. But, I always think you want someone who might
be on the negotiating team. If you want to make some progress, I think the best way is through
the mediation process and getting the community involved. But sometimes you don't know
whether that group is representative of the community. There was no election and there was no
formal group formed. I suggested that they call themselves something,
so they called themselves the Wellesley African-American Committee (WAAC).