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Seeing brown in Bel Air

Aravinda Pillalamarri, of Bel Air, describes the response from town officials and the community after Bel Air Police officers stopped her while walking in her neighborhood. (David Anderson, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

I am writing in response to your coverage of the incident wherein Aravinda Pillalamarri was stopped while walking in her own neighborhood by the Bel Air police, allegedly because of a report of a suspicious woman in the neighborhood and also because of recent home invasions in the same neighborhood ("Bel Air Police detain woman walking, question her immigration status," Jan. 27).

I know Ms. Pillalamarri. She's an outstanding person. She studied at the best schools in this country. She's articulate, smart and lovely. Always the best student and a top flight intellectual. The only reason the Bel Air police thought she could be a home invader is because of blind prejudice. Many a black person has been stopped, searched, handcuffed, chased and shot based on mistaken identity in this country. I am glad Ms. Pillalamarri was not subjected to the same indignities that a lot of African Americans are subjected to in these incidents. I think she handled the whole affair quite prudently, and I am thankful she came out in one piece without being handcuffed and taken to jail for questioning. Considering we live in Donald Trump's newly-minted "Let's catch the immigrants!" America, I am not surprised that a senior Bel Air police officer thought it fit to ask Ms. Pillalamarri, "Are you illegal?"

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Yet, the stupidity of that question is amazing. Someone here illegally when asked the question, "Are you illegal?" is expected to volunteer an answer in the affirmative?

That Ms. Pillalamarri was reported as suspicious in and of itself is suspicious. Ms. Pillalamarri is familiar in the neighborhood. She has lived there since childhood, and she likes to walk there and that she is suddenly suspicious because she was looking into cars is not believable. She was suspicious because she is brown would be more like it.

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There was a white man I saw on TV once. He was a chronic shoplifter. He claimed he would nab the things he wanted at a store and wait to exit the door with a black man because when the alarm bells sounded, the black man would be searched but never he, a white man with the hot goods.

An Indian woman with a dot on her forehead, taking a quiet walk in her neighborhood where she's lived forever, is the very one the Bel Air police thought would be bashing down doors and windows to steal someone's possessions. And Chief Charles Moore claims that sensitivity training would fix the Bel Air Police Department's prejudices and foolish questions about illegal versus legal status of folks detained for questioning as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

No, sensitivity training won't fix the deep-seated problem of white police officers stereotyping and jumping to conclusions about the black and brown citizens of this nation. I believe the Bel Air police officers were presumptuous and provocative with Ms. Pillalamarri and she, not the police, de-escalated the encounter. Chief Moore says that his officers will learn unbiased profiling. What exactly is that? Sounds like a cat with eight legs — possible but not probable.

Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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