The image of the African-American man has been placed in a harsh spotlight this August. On the heels of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, more and more cases of mistreatment of black men by the police are being revealed. These incidents have been covered extensively in the mainstream media, but many African Americans are aware that police brutality is nothing new in our community. If not for the larger role that social media and citizen journalism now play in educating the world, I believe these injustices would continue to be overlooked.

One recent case of racial profiling, first reported on Facebook, hit very close to home: the arrest of Charles Belk, a current television producer and a former national officer of NSBE, the National Society of Black Engineers. Shortly after leaving his lunch in Beverly Hills, Calif., to place money in a parking meter, Belk was arrested by local police for fitting the profile of a suspect in a nearby bank robbery. In his Facebook post, Belk reported that the description officers used to track their suspect was a “tall, bald head, black male” wearing a green shirt. Belk also reported that he was not read his rights and that he was detained for a lengthy time without receiving a full explanation from the police as to why he was being held.

My reaction to this news is disgust. Although the Beverly Hills police have expressed their deep regret, the truth is that a simple sorry will not solve the problems we have here in the U.S., “land of the free, home of the brave.” Cases like Belk’s too closely resemble those of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and so many others. More than 60 years after African Americans’ major push for civil rights began because of incidents such as Emmett Till’s murder, we are seeing, once again, that class, education, lifestyle or success offer black men no guarantee of treatment as true human beings.

I do not support the profiling of black men as thugs because they decide to wear casual clothing. NSBE is poised and well-positioned for activism against these kinds of injustices, while we continue the pursuit of our core mission of achieving parity for blacks in STEM. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wisely stated that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Simply put, we cannot afford to lose another life to mishandling by police, because that loss affects an entire generation. I am treating this situation as though it happened to my own family, because it did.

As national chair, I speak for the National Society of Black Engineers in saying there are plenty of black males, like Charles Belk, who do not fit the profile. It’s time that we unified to reveal the positive image of the African-American man.

Charles Belk, your NSBE family supports you as you speak out for those who do not have the resources to speak out for themselves. Together, we can nurture young black minds in technically creative ways, and heal the vision of those who are blind to the beauty of black men like yourself.
One recent case of racial profiling, first reported on Facebook, hit very close to home: the arrest of Charles Belk, a current television producer and a former national officer of the National Society of Black Engineers. NSBE is poised and well-positioned for activism against these kinds of injustices, while we continue the pursuit of our core mission of achieving parity for blacks in STEM.