Recently Netflix have made available The Fresh Prince of Bel Air series. I sat laughing my socks off re-watching some of the funniest episodes starring Will Smith. Although we mainly remember the show for its wit, entertainment and banter. Every once in a while the show would touch on important issues. These issues more often than not touched on subjects of race and prejudice. The subjects often exposed the Banks family to a high level of scenarios of racist intolerance. I was only a few episodes in when I came across the episode titled “Mistaken Identity.”
The episode “Mistaken identity” was the 6th episode of the first series. Within the episode audiences saw Will and Carlton arrested while driving Uncle Phil’s business associates car. The episode clearly touches on issues of racism and racial profiling.
Below is the transcript of the episode showing the conversation before the two boys were arrested. As well as the conversation that transpires between them and the cops.
Will -ls that the police? -Punch it, man.
We’re in a Benz.
Carlton – Are you crazy? l call this a lucky break.
A policeman is our pal.
We can ask him for directions.
Will -Listen to me, when he comes up, keep your hands on the wheel.
Carlton-Good evening, Officer.
PO-Keep your hands on the wheel.
-Where are you headed?
Carlton-We’re going to Palm Springs.
And you? Where are you headed this fine evening?
Will -Good job.
Now he’s gonna want to see your license.
PO-Can l see your license?
Carlton- My license? l have to warn you this picture was taken without my contacts.
And the height is a typo, l’m actually a lot taller.
Will-Fool, this is not The Love Connection.
PO-Vehicle registration, please.
Carlton-Just a sec.
But the thing is, Officer, this isn’t my car.
Wil-Get out of the car.
Will-He’s going to tell us to get out of the car.
Carlton-You watch too much TV.
PO-Get out of the car.
Carlton-Officer, honestly, l don’t see the need to–
PO-Hey, out of the car now.
Thanks to you we’re already an hour late to bikini land.
As the transcript shows, the police officer gives no clear justification as to why he stopped the two boys, however Will narration proves that he knows it’s simply because they are two black males driving an expensive car. It is fair to say that this is not just a story-line for an episode, this type of racial profiling happens in real life.
Fiction or Reality?
A young man named John Felton was stopped for making direct eye contact with the police officer. During the stop the man he man filmed his encounter with the police officer and posted it online to his Facebook page. The question is, is it only because he posted the encounter on social media that the officer was in fact reprimanded for his actions? Or was it true justice? Because the reality behind the situation is many young men are stopped and wrongfully arrested because of the colour of their skin.
Back to the episode of The Fresh Prince; Carlton who hasn’t been subject to such racial discrimination, as a consequence of his upbringing, is unaware of how to behave in such instance. Carlton is seen attempting to justify what they had experienced and why the police acted the way they did.
Will -Yo, Carlton.
Will- Those cops were just trying to do their jobs?
Don’t get all bent out of shape.
Will- You didn’t learn anything this weekend.
Carlton- l most certainly did.
Always bring a map.
Will- What? lf we would have had a map we wouldn’t have to drive 2 miles an hour to find a freeway entrance and we wouldn’t have been stopped.
l get it now.
We were stopped because we were driving too slow.
We were breaking the slowness limit.
Okay, l’ve never heard of that law before.
But l did hear this other law.
lt’s the ”if you see a Black guy driving anything but a burned-out Pinto ”you better stop him because he stole it” law.
l heard about that one.
But l thought it was ”the Black guy law” when in actuality, it was the ”slowness limit law.” Thank you for sharing that with me.
Carlton -They were just doing their job.
Will-Good night, Carlton.
Carlton-What’s your complaint here? We were detained for a few hours Dad cleared things up, and we were released.
The system works.
Will-l hope you like that system ’cause you’ll be seeing a lot of it in your lifetime.
Carlton-Not if l bring a map.
Will-You just don’t get it, do you? No map is going to save you, and neither is your glee club or your fancy Bel-Air address or who your daddy is.
When you’re driving in a nice car in a strange neighborhood none of that matters.
They only see one thing.
Carlton-Maybe growing up where you did has made you a little touchy but l think you’ve blown this thing out of proportion.
lf you look at the facts.
Carlton, it’s late.
Carlton’s justification is what makes this episode very difficult to watch as such injustice is a reality to most. This reality being that young black men are mistakenly stopped by the police simply because of the colour of their skin. It does not matter where you live, who you know or how you were raised there is always a possibility that a young black male or female could be stopped by the police just because of the colour of their skin.
After watching this episode I questioned how relevant the episode of The Fresh Prince in today’s day and age? Does it in fact still represent the reality of society today? In order to answer this question I took to the web to do some further research.
“Black people are more likely to be stopped by the police than white.”
According to statistics black people are more likely to be stopped by the police than white. Unfortunately the statistics were unable to show whether or not there were justified reasons for the stops. According to the same study Blacks, Native American’s and Hispanics had a higher stop/Arrest rates per 10,000 population than whites and non-Hispanics and Asians. These statistics further raised the question of whether or not whites and non-Hispanics and Asians are stopped much less as a consequence of their skin tone.
“frequent stops of young men have caused
Black and Hispanic mothers to teach their sons
how to act and behave if approached by the police.”
Referring back to the episode of The Fresh Prince. Within the episode Will behaves in ways in which he was taught whilst growing up. His behavior reflects how black males are taught to act when interacting with the police. This scene shows a true reflection of reality as the same study mentioned above states “frequent stops of young men have caused Black and Hispanic mothers to teach their sons how to act and behave if approached by the police.” We can see these behavioral patterns through Will’s behaviors in the episode. Will’s actions demonstrates that the subject raised in the episode has a high importance as it portrays a reality behind young male’s lives today. The issue raised makes us question if racial profiling is still the practice used by law enforcement’s today.