The 2023 Indiana General Assembly is underway, and the list of bills to be considered for discussion in committees is long. Among them, Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, has introduced a couple of bills that would address the “living while Black” epidemic that has a tendency to cost Black folk their dignity, their civil rights and their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
House Bill 1053 would “prohibit law enforcement agencies and officers from conducting discriminatory profiling or pretextual stops based upon an individual’s perceived age, gender, race or ethnicity.” Clearly, Pryor is attempting to add extra protections for brown and Black Hoosiers whose skin color is often weaponized and viewed as a threat that should be controlled.
HB 1052 addresses malicious false reporting. It would “allow a person to bring a civil lawsuit against a person who falsely calls the police” on them for something as innocuous as sleeping in a dorm area while Black, trying to cash a paycheck while Black, or waiting for a friend at Starbucks while Black. Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, has introduced a sister bill of sorts in the Senate, Senate Bill 240. This bill would make false reports to law enforcement a Class A misdemeanor.
What? You have not heard of the “living while Black” trend? How lucky you are to not be in fear of having the police called on you because someone believes you do not belong in a space and should be forcibly removed. Then when you try to stand up for your civil rights, you could be placed in handcuffs, or worse.
I imagine some of you will suggest this is not really a thing, or we are playing the “Black Card.” A quick Google search will provide a long list of things white folk do every day that, when Black folk do the same, the police are called.
How unfortunate that Pryor and Taylor have to introduce such bills because people can’t just mind their own business and let other people be. But for some, just the mere presence of Black folk is a personal affront. Maybe, if we had more DEI and implicit bias training in schools, we could actually teach people how not to be so petrified of folks who don’t look like them.
Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, is attempting to address the issue from a medical perspective in a bill she introduced, House Bill 1071, which deals with implicit bias continuing education. This bill requires the medical licensing board to adopt rules requiring physicians and assistants who apply for or renew their license to complete continuing education addressing implicit bias.
The Indiana Maternal Mortality Review Committee 2022 annual reports states, “The average mortality ratios … show disparities, with non-Hispanic Black women experiencing 128.8 pregnancy-associated deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 91.6 for non-Hispanic White women.” Mothers dying during childbirth is horrible no matter the race. This bill addresses one reason Black women are dying at a higher rate.
Will these bills see a committee? Doubtful. In doing so, Republicans would be admitting that we do, indeed, have a race issue in our state, and all their efforts to limit the amount of diverse education in our primary and secondary schools would seem ridiculous.
However, burying our heads in the sand and pretending there aren’t real disparity issues that cost lives in our communities will not improve quality of life for all Hoosiers.•
Black is former deputy chairwoman for engagement for the Indiana Democratic Party
and a former candidate for the Indiana House. Send comments to email@example.com.
Click here for more Forefront columns.