A viral video published recently on social media showed a police officer in suburban Chicago telling a teenager he was being detained because of his skin color.
A teenager named Dezi Baczek, who recorded the video, told WMAQ that she and a group of friends were visiting a Lake Villa pawn shop to sell an item so her little brother could buy a book.
When the group left the store, Lake Villa Police Detective Esteban Gomez approached them about an ongoing theft investigation that may have involved a friend who was with them.
“I was yelled at to sit down,” Baczek told the station. “I said, ‘What’s the reason?’ And he said sit down or I could turn around and be arrested, so I sat down at that point.”
She said that’s when she decided to record the remainder of the incident.
“[A]ll of us sitting down did not do anything wrong,” Baczek wrote in a Facebook post about the incident, adding that the other teens sitting down “were with someone who got into trouble” but that “we didn’t know anything about it till that point.”
While members of the group sat on the curb, another teenager can be heard asking the officer why he was being detained.
“Because I’m a teen? Because I have baggy pants?” the unidentified teen asked.
“Because you’re white,” the officer responded before walking away.
Watch video footage of the incident here: (Warning: Includes explicit language.)
Baczek later told her mother, Missy Baczek, about what had happened.
The mother told WMAQ that she was outraged and called the police chief to file a complaint.
Lake Villa Police Chief Craig Somerville explained that the detective saw the group of teens accompanying the suspect of a theft investigation at the pawn shop.
One of the group members gave the officer a false name and was charged with obstructing police.
“When the subject questioned Gomez about his arrest, Gomez reacted by answering the teens (sic) inquiry with an inappropriate response,” Somerville said in a statement.
“Det. Gomez admitted his words were poorly chosen and insensitive and he immediately regretted what he had said,” the chief continued. “The Lake Villa Police Department does not condone this type of behavior of its officers.”
Gomez was reportedly disciplined “for behavior unbecoming an officer” and will be speaking to the parents and teens involved. The details of his discipline were not immediately released.
Of course, we know if any officer told a minority that he or she was being detained because they were “black” or “Hispanic” or basically anything other than “white,” the officer would be fired, protesters would be demanding the Justice Department get involved, and athletes would be kneeling during the national anthem to speak out against that explicit racism.
But, because these kids were white, none of those things are likely to occur.
Must be that “white privilege” thing, huh?
These teens may very well have deserved to be detained, questioned and even arrested if they were involved in a crime, but doing those things — or threatening to do those things — because of their skin color is unacceptable in the same way it would be unacceptable for a non-white suspect.
No one should be targeted because of skin color, but we must ensure that everyone — not just minorities — are protected from racism. As long as we allow racism in any form, it will never truly be eradicated for anyone.
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