Dorian Lockett knows from where he speaks. The Connecticut Young Democrats president says he’s been racially profiled in his home state of Virginia and more recently, in Farmington and Waterbury. It’s with this life experience that he calls out some Republican members of the Connecticut House of Representatives for comments he describes as “disingenuous” and “ignorant.”
Lockett is referring to remarks made by some GOP members of the House during debate on a bill dealing with the use of excessive force by police officers. (An Act Concerning Excessive Use of Force—HB 7103. The bill passed and was signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy).
“It was disappointing to see the lack of respect and understanding that several House Republicans displayed during…debate on a bill designed to curb excessive use of force by police. [It should have been an] opportunity to show the people of our great state that racial discrimination and excessive use of force by police officers has no place in our communities,” Lockett said. “Instead, that opportunity was squandered by the actions and words of several House Republicans, who chose instead to minimize the struggles of minorities in this state.”
Lockett said it’s important for police departments to strive to be as diverse as the community is serves. He was referring to comments such as those made by Rep. Charles Ferraro (R-West Haven). “In my culture we, the Italian culture we are referred to as olive skinned individuals not really white,” the state rep. said. “When I grew up, I grew up in West Haven. I remember trying to go out with an Irish gal in my town. Her father would not allow her to go out with me because I was a dirty filthy olive-skinned Italian. Also Indians, of Indian decent, no offense to my colleague Dr. Srinivasan, but he’s not exactly pale skinned. So are members of India considered to be members of color?” Ferraro asked from the House floor during the debate Aug. 27th.
Lockett tells The Hanging Shad Ferraro’s comments show ignorance. “Comparing the ‘plight’ of Italians to those of African-Americans or Hispanics is disingenuous and ignorant.”
In response, Ferraro says he was only referring to the language of the bill—which he voted for—which only referenced “nonwhite.” “Ghettos have been populated by people of various cultures. When I was growing up, as an Italian, I was often discriminated against. I was only trying to demonstrate that bill referred only to ‘nonwhite’ and what constitutes ‘nonwhite,’ Ferraro told The Hanging Shad Sunday night.
“I was in no way trying to compare Italians to what blacks may have faced. That certainly was not my intent,” Ferraro said.
Lockett also takes issue with remarks from state Rep. Rep. Dan Carter (R-Bethel) “If you’re a community who wants to make the policy that says you shall hire anyone but a white person with equal credentials. To me, that is institutionalizing racism,” he said when talking about efforts to make police forces more diverse.
“Let’s be clear: Making police and fire department staff more representative of the communities they serve is common-sense. It will help strengthen neighborhood services and ensure fairer treatment of all people, regardless of their race,” Lockett said.
“As young black man who has been questioned by police for no reason than the color of my skin, I find these comments disappointing—if not insulting—as they show a clear lack of compassion for the challenges minorities face everyday,” he said.
When pressed for details on these instances of racial profiling, Lockett said that in his native Virginia, he and a friend tossing a lacrosse ball and forth one day when police rolled up, told them to put down their sticks and turn out their pockets. “We were there for an hour before they let us leave. My mother was livid and called the police station. It turns out some Caucasian boys were beaten up somewhere in the area,” he said.
More recently, Lockett said he was pulled over on Route 6 in Farmington and questioned by a town officer. At the time, Lockett was working for then-House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey. “He asked us if we were ‘smoking weed’ to which we obviously said ‘no.’ He told us, ‘I can have your car searched.’ He eventually let us go and never told us why he pulled us over.”
Lockett also detailed an incident in Waterbury in which he was questioned by city police for no apparent reason.
When asked why he thought minority members of the House remained silent during the debate, Lockett said, “They said sometimes you just shake your head and say, ‘that’s the way it is.’”