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Singled Out at the Gas Station

May 07, 1992

I am a white educator from the inner city who ventured to Redondo Beach Friday afternoon, May 1, 1992, to find gasoline for my car.

I became alarmed when two Redondo Beach police officers drove into the crowded service station where I was waiting. They quickly exited their vehicle and approached the two occupants of the truck in front of me. They called to the driver as he was pumping his gasoline and asked him what he was doing there. The officers then questioned his male companion--both of whom looked to be in their 60s.

The officers then looked in the direction of my friend, Terry Coleman, who happens to be a retired African-American police officer, but said nothing. (They knew that he and I were together.) They walked across the station toward another driver who was patiently waiting his turn. Again, the question, "What are you doing here?"

Since there were about 20 cars at the station, and these officers chose to question just three individuals about their purpose in being at the gas station, it makes one wonder what it was about these men that caused the police officers to single them out and to look upon them with suspicion.

You guessed it! They're African-American. While Los Angeles was burning, spawned by the fires of racism, injustice and economic deprivation, white police officers in the suburbs continued to lay down the sparks that fuel these fires. It's difficult to enlighten men who do not know they are in the dark.

JUDITH L. DUNLAP

Inglewood

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