Driving while black


      • racial profiling
        Referring to the practice of law enforcement officers targeting and pulling over individuals who are black or of African descent while driving, often due to implicit or explicit racial bias

      • unfair treatment
        Describing the unjust and discriminatory treatment that individuals of African descent may face while driving, such as being stopped more frequently, searched without probable cause, or given harsher penalties for minor traffic violations compared to other drivers

    Examples of Driving while black

    • John was pulled over by the police for a routine traffic stop, but as soon as the officer saw his license and registration, he was immediately suspicious. The officer asked John to step out of the car and questioned him intensely, making him feel like he was being treated differently because of the color of his skin. This experience left John feeling frustrated and disrespected, as he had the feeling that he was being targeted for "driving while black".

      The phrase "driving while black" is used to describe the disproportionate policing and law enforcement targeting of black drivers. It highlights the fact that African Americans are more likely than white drivers to be stopped, searched, and arrested by law enforcement while driving, despite committing the same or fewer offenses. This phrase has become a rallying cry for those seeking to bring attention to the disparities in the criminal justice system and advocate for change. The term is a play on the phrase "drunk driving", which refers to driving under the influence of alcohol. The difference between the two is that "drunk driving" is seen as a criminal offense, whereas "driving while black" is seen as an issue of systemic inequality and prejudice.

    • The police officer pulled over John, a young black man, for allegedly running a red light. As the officer approached the car, John's heart sank. He had heard stories of "driving while black" and feared that his race would now become an issue.

      The phrase "driving while black" refers to the disproportionate number of traffic stops and arrests experienced by black drivers compared to white drivers, particularly in areas with a history of racial tension or inequality. It highlights the idea that being black while driving can be seen as suspicious or dangerous by some law enforcement officials, leading to unwarranted stops and confrontations. In John's case, his apprehension is rooted in a belief that he may be targeted or treated unfairly due to the color of his skin.


    The idiom "driving while black" is commonly used to describe the experience of being racially profiled while driving, specifically referring to the targeting and mistreatment of black individuals by law enforcement officers. It highlights the systemic issue of racial bias and discrimination in the criminal justice system, particularly in traffic stops.

    Origin of "Driving while black"

    The origins of the idiom can be traced back to the mid-20th century in the United States, during the height of the civil rights movement. At this time, many black activists and community members were speaking out against police brutality and racial profiling, including the targeting of black drivers. The phrase "driving while black" became a way to succinctly capture and describe this experience.

    Examples of the idiom being used in the media and popular culture can be found as early as the 1970s, with the phrase appearing in books, articles, and songs. In the 1990s, the Rodney King beating and subsequent trial brought national attention to the issue of racial profiling and further solidified the use of the phrase.

    Today, "driving while black" remains a powerful and relevant idiom that sheds light on ongoing issues of racial discrimination and injustice in the United States. It serves as a reminder of the systemic racism and bias that continues to impact the lives of black individuals in their daily interactions with law enforcement.