The members of the Black Caucus—led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Hank Johnson, D-Ga.—expressed a “grave concern for the wellbeing of [b]lack drivers” in the United States in an April 6 letter to Buttigieg, the Washington Times reported.
“Black motorists have experienced disproportionate scrutiny and excessive force under the guise of traffic enforcement,” they wrote. “This injustice reflects a failed approach to traffic safety.”
According to the Black Caucus members, “driving while Black may not be a real crime codified in law, but it is treated as one throughout the country.”
The injustice has allegedly led to black people being “killed by police in the name of traffic safety,” they claimed.
Blacks, who constitute about 12.6% of the U.S. population, have comprised about 21.6% of police-shooting fatalities since 2017, according to Statistia. Those episodes likewise occupy a disproportionate amount of the media coverage since the emergence of radical anti-policing movements like Black Lives Matter.
Many of the prominent cases involving black victims of police shootings began as routine traffic stops that escalated after the suspects refused to comply with law-enforcement, actively resisted arrest or otherwise posed what officers perceived to be an imminent threat.
Pressley and Johnson insisted that the problem was not the lack of compliance, but rather with the laws themselves, and the inequitable enforcement thereof.
Specifically, the caucus asked Buttigieg to allocate money from the recently-passed Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act toward “innovation in traffic enforcement” that would go easier on black drivers.
The Transportation Secretary is likely to be open to such messaging given his past interest in building roads that are less racist.
“Transportation can connect us to jobs, services and loved ones, but we’ve also seen countless cases around the country where a piece of infrastructure cuts off a neighborhood or a community because of how it was built,” he said last summer.
“This is a forward-looking vision,” he continued. “Our focus isn’t about assigning blame … It’s about mending what has been broken, especially when the damage was done with taxpayer dollars.”
At press time, Buttigieg had not yet responded to the caucus’s letter, but President Joe Biden has gone out of his way in recent months to condemn the nation’s law enforcement for what he believes to be their unjust targeting of blacks.
“What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often,” Biden said during his February State of the Union address, alluding to the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five black police officers in Memphis, Tenn., in January. “We have to do better.”