Charlene Hunte on driving while Black

Charlene Hunte on driving while Black
Nompumelelo Moyo

Nowadays, racial profiling headlines pop up with alarming frequency of Black people going on with their business: shopping driving, walking, only to have the police officers called on them or following them. Some stories make the news but countless others do not. Racism harms the dignity of the one being profiled unjustly and can even result on loss of life.

Charlene Hunte a 62 year old retired health care worker had a maddening experience with the police when she was pulled over on May 28 in the wee hours of the morning. Hunte says she was driving to Union United Church to help with the food bank when she was pulled over. It was alleged that she was being stopped for having tinted windows but soon after that the encounter escalated.

The officer asked for her licence and commented that her tint was too dark he could not tell if the driver was a man or women. Hunte claims she has had that tint for 5 years and has never been stopped. After which, the officer proceeded to call his supervisor who came to join him and after testing and confirming the tint was above legal level the officer told Hunte she had to scrap off the tint with a coin on the side of the road at the intersection.

At this point Hunte says there were three police cars and three police officers on the scene, the officer in question, his partner, a female officer who was smiling throughout the whole ordeal and the supervisor who was unconcerned about the whole issue.

She says she asked to get a 24 hour citation promising to remove the tint by the next day but the officer was not having it. He insisted she get a coin and start scraping or else her car would be towed. After searching for the coin in her bag and not finding one, Hunte went to ask the supervisor for the coin.

The supervisor also did not have the coin but told Hunte that “you must comply with everything the officer says .”

The officer then gave her a pocketknife to scrape with. After some difficulty, the officer took the knife and did the scraping themselves and later said that she should take the tint off by the next day. Which was initially her request.

Hunte has filed a formal complaint and instituted legal proceedings with the help of Mr Fo Niemi, the director of Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). Niemi says Hunte was treated in a “paternalistic and patronising manner”. Lawyer Avi Levy has also weighed in the matter stating that the matter was surprising and excessive.

Hunte says the reality of this incident hit her hard the next day when she realized the officer had handed her the knife. What if this was a set up and it looked like she was the one attacking the officer? So many questions came to her mind when she thought of what could have happened. Furthermore the officer in question did not bother to identify himself or show his badge.

She firmly believes such incidents should be brought to light and more people need to speak up. Furthermore, she expressed that this situation wasn’t surprising to her, citing a long history of issues between law enforcement and minorities, particularly Black people, dating back to the 1970s. She strongly believes her race played a role in the situation, suggesting a different outcome if her skin color had been different.

It is unfortunate and sad when the law enforcers who are supposed to protect citizens are the very people who abuse their power and make citizens feel unsafe. The CONTACT will continue to provide updates as the story develops.