We Were Bamboozled

Princeton professor pulls a fast one and tries to retreat from her fraud unsuccessfully.

Princeton University Professor Imani Perry. Photo via YouTube.

Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 16 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

Princeton University Professor Imani Perry. Photo via YouTube.

Princeton University Professor Imani Perry. Photo via YouTube.

Last week we were bamboozled by Princeton Professor Imani Perry.

She was pulled over for driving 22 mph over the speed limit on her way to work at Princeton University. Her license was suspended, and she had a warrant out for her arrest due to unpaid parking tickets. She was taken to the police station to pay those parking tickets.

She took to social media to make a clear connection between her perceived poor treatment and being a Black woman. She received national attention for her social media comments.

“I hope everyone reading will consider the possibility that the way I was treated had something to do with my race, and that we have a serious problem with policing in this society particularly with respect to Black people.”

Afterwards, the Princeton police released video documenting the police interaction with Professor Perry. In my opinion, the police were consummate professionals and nobody could have expected better treatment. She was driving alarmingly fast with a suspended license.

Video 1: The radar and initial stop.

Video 2: Princeton officer confirms Perry’s information.

Video 3: The officer explains to Perry the warrant for her arrest. There’s audio of the pat down.

Very quickly after video was released, she started receiving backlash. She has since issued an essay where she hypocritically tries to deny describing her treatment as “racism” — at the same time expressing gratitude for the support she’s received from the Princeton University community.

I read her essay. I think it’s reprehensible that a person with a position of authority, privilege, trust and credibility would associate her scofflaw activities with Eric Garner’s unjust death, or Sandra Bland’s mortal brush with racism.

I don’t care if the ticket was one week old or three years old; anyone with common sense knows that if you’re going to speed 22 mph over the speed limit, you better not have a warrant out for your arrest or you’re going to spend some time in handcuffs.

Her nonsense about parking tickets and being compelled to pay is a bunch of garbage. Those are the rules. Should there be a better way of collecting the money? Of course there should. Should you handcuff a person to a table for nonpayment of parking tickets? No. Does ignoring how life works give you an excuse to classify your perceptions of your injustice with people who lost their lives? Only in Professor Perry’s world.

She’s a malfeasant narcissist. Princeton should show her the door.

42 comments


  • Hurrah to you Mr. Visconti! The most important thing we all can do is function with integrity and you do that consummately! Bless you and thank you for all you do for us to raise awareness!

    • Agreed! This is the race version of the “boy who cried wolf.” Also, this gives fuel to the right wingers who say that we black folks cry racism to cover up our malfeasance.

      But I applaud Princeton for not firing her. Sometimes you have to give people a break.

  • The tone and critical judgment of this article are disappointing. Calling her a malfeasant narcissist? Is that appropriate? Is this article not an abuse of power and biased? As a person of color might she have felt a certain way, when stopped? Where is your empathy, your desire to understand fully and not simply judge. Shame on you Diversity Inc.

      • To me, her position was suspect based on the first article. Thank you, Luke, for closing the loop and not giving ammunition to naysayers by demonstrating that truth is always at the root, even when it shines the light in an unexpected area.

  • I am a Black woman. When I read her account of what happened I said it didn’t seem to me that anything untoward had happened to her. I was treated the same way when I was stopped on an occasion and unknowingly had a warrant for a traffic violation. If police put you in their car or you’re custody in the police station, you will be in handcuffs.

  • How she felt is one thing but to act as if she was mistreated is another. Protocol was followed, and as a professor of her status she should have known her license was suspended and she had tickets out there. I’m not going to sit and call her names, but a person of her intelligence knows better.

  • I went back to look at the video clips in the previous article, and clip #2 was in twice. Nonetheless, my primary comment is that I appreciate seeing this update. People should be willing to re-assess their view when additional information becomes available. I think mid-course corrections can be a sign of strength, not wobbliness, as is often touted in politics.

    • I’m with Loretta on this one. Big believer in the concept that “the truth shall set us free.”

      Hope the Professor can look in her mirror, accept that she is human and sometimes is wrong and we all move on.

      Good for Luke and Diversity for speaking truth.

  • Monica Chambers

    Your article sums much of my feelings. The Professor seems to have a disconnection from reality. Who likes speeding tickets? Who has a 3 year old speeding ticket and thinks that the police in that district will not follow up regarding its status? Regardless of ethnicity, mental illness is real and it would be helpful for us to help people who seem to be disconnected from reality to find a solution and understanding of their disconnect.

  • I too was a little suspicious of the first account and so I didn’t comment. I’ve been very critical of police conduct in past incidents but in this case the police were absolutely professional and I am sorely disappointed with the professor for using her race to stir negative feelings when she was the wrong one in this case. What her selfish behavior did was diminish future cases that might be legitimate criticism of police conduct. Thank goodness for video that gave a more accurate depiction of what really happened.

  • Your opinion is just that – YOUR opinion. It doesn’t represent the facts of the matter as you were not there; don’t live in the world and experience of the Professor. Thus your opinion is your interpretation of the video, as influenced by the social media bandwagon. You didn’t disappoint by affirming your cultural stereotype that she couldn’t have had any intelligent and valid or understandable reasons for going over the speed limit. Following their recent trends, perhaps the reason she wasn’t murdered by the police is her high profile job you are asking to be taken away – IN YOUR OPINION.

    • I happen to live very close to where Professor Perry was pulled over. There is no excuse – none – for traveling 20 miles an hour over the speed limit in that area. In the video, the surroundings look wooded, but there is a Quaker school within a 10th of a mile of where she was pulled over and the surroundings quickly turn residential. Roughly one-third mile from where she stopped, the speed limit changes to 30 mph.

      The police officer clearly knew she was a professor at Princeton, was very courteous and solicitous.

      The Professor chose to turn this into a racial incident. It was not. That is my informed opinion based on the facts at hand, I’d be pleased to discuss facts that you may have that we are not aware of. But discussion of conjecture while ignoring facts is childish. There is a long history of people being murdered in the process of bad law enforcement in our country. Professor Perry leveraged recent awareness of this injustice for her own purposes. Disgusting.

    • This isn’t about an opinion. There was nothing here based on the facts that gave way to an objective claim about race. Her opinion is just that. It certainly doesn’t mean she’s being reasonable. Also, throwing around accusations is NOT the same thing as giving opinions and should not be dismissed as such. What she said was very serious.

  • John Hudgins

    How dare a Black woman with a PHD at the great Princeton not be blameless. Your animosity is over reaching and quite self righteous. People do move about, change addresses and communications get lost in the mail. Parking tickets blow away and sometimes other notices get misplaced. I have had parking tickets that I did not know about until registration renewal. Fortunately in the state of Maryland they simply flag your registration and not turn a parking violation into a criminal offense. Lighten up.

    • This is not about parking tickets or speeding, it’s not about Princeton. it’s about Professor Perry turning a personal problem into a nation-wide racial incident involving the police. It’s about feeding racists by being fraudulent. It’s about subverting the path to justice for people who are currently victims of racist law enforcement.

      Your recommendation to “lighten up” is insulting, especially considering the story that ran in the newsletter with this column – about Tamir Rice’s family receiving a bill for the ambulance ride their son had to take as a result of police misbehavior.

      You need a perspective adjustment.

      • I commented at the time of the first story almost verbatim to your recent article. Luke thank you for the retraction. I think this happens far too many times and it subverts and detracts from real cases of abuse.

      • John Hudgins

        The only connection between Tamir Rice and Professor Perry is that they are both Black. I guess that is your point. The only Black people who are wronged are those shot. Hell of a perspective for a “diversity” expert.

        • It was Professor Perry who aligned herself with Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and others recently in the news regarding law enforcement (racist) maltreatment.

          She put herself in the national dialogue with that kind of association, I did not. It’s very unfortunate for her that the Princeton police were consummate professionals and she ends up looking like a disingenuous scofflaw.

        • When are we going to be educated enough to comprehend cause and effect? Every time we “cry wolf” we lessen the value of legitimate abuse situations.
          Nice job professor.

  • At best, she’s protesting the law that allows officers to arrest people with outstanding warrants. At worst, she seems to be over-thinking, over-dramatizing, and over-playing on the sympathies of people with legitimate concerns about police mistreatment.

    I could see on the videos that the officers were very respectful and professional. So, where’s the problem? IMHO: she could have shortened her essay considerably: I did it. I got stopped. I was arrested. The officers were so accommodating, they offered to drop me off at Princeton after I paid my fines. The End!

    BTW: I’m a Black woman who was also stopped in ’04 for speeding in Ohio. I did it. I paid my fine on the spot (no warrants) to the officer who was professional and respectful. I went on my merry way. The End

    • Good For You, as any Law abiding citizen would do regardless of race… This whole thing is about the Law and breaking it sometimes by mistake and honestly forgetting about a fine. Personally I would be mortified to drive if I had an expired license or a warrant out for my arrest but that is just how I am. I am concerned of the integrity of this Prof at Princeton or any University. The bad part is, after I read this story in Diversity Inc. I couldn’t believe how disgusted I was and then I heard it on Philly Fox29 News that evening. The media didn’t mention that the law was broken or that there was a warrant or an expired license involved. They only mentioned the racial factor. This will not be corrected on their end which only adds fuel to the fire which is already at a very scary level. There are very serious issues going on between police and African Americans, stories that aren’t true need to be left out of the media. I’m glad there was clarification on this one. Now if Fox can report the correct information…

  • Jack Pomprowitz

    Excuse me. Why do people have to make excuses for others when the “others” are adults, educated and supposedly aware of the law. There will come a time when the “poor little me” excuse will not be seen as an excuse.

    It’s time for people to grow up and accept responsibility for their own doing.

  • Bamboozled? or not having given enough attention to the details of the above incident? While I am still alarmed that Ms. Perry went thru the above events, others have shared with me that this is the legal process. I took issue with her being handcuffed to a desk. Other folks have shared that they were detained in a detention cell.

    • The true story unfolded over a period of days. I believed her story because of the position she holds, however, I am not clairvoyant.

      Professor Perry is an Ivy League Professor, I find it hard to imagine that she didn’t know she had those unpaid parking tickets, that she didn’t realize her license was suspended and that she didn’t know she was going 22 miles an hour over the speed limit (I’d buy one out of three, but not all three) and that the consequence would be being handcuffed because the police can’t have people running around the police station unsecured.

      In a perfect world, the fee would’ve simply been collected in one of the many ways the state collects money from all of us. In a perfect world, people driving through other people’s neighborhoods don’t travel fast enough to be a hazard.

      • She also has a long history of parking tickets. I’m talking around 15+. This isn’t her first rodeo.

    • It happened to me in DC. I too was handicuffed to a desk. I am black and all police officers were black.

  • David Prince

    The Professor’s reaction to being placed in police custody is based on feelings of embarrassment by knowing the University community would become aware of the arrest. It is the impact on her reputation that is at stake. The Professor is young and was unwilling to accept the consequences of failing to address unpaid tickets. A lot of folks are simply unwilling to read the citations, choosing instead to “dismiss” them as minor infractions. They do not want to face the looming problem: the recipient’s failure to pay the fine. Once this occurs, all kinds of new problems are created. In this instance, the Princeton Police performed as they should have, actually very respectful. This incident bears no correlation to Ms. Sandra Bland’s case. In that case, the arresting Officer allowed himself to become irritated by Ms. Bland’s berate cussing and hostility. Rather than de-escalating, the Officer chose at the last minute to allow the incident to become prolonged. The detention moved toward escalation when he could have simply handed Ms. Bland the citation and called it a day. The Officer knew he had authority to take additional time if necessary, and chose to prolong the stop I believe in part to frustrate Ms. Bland. In contrast, the Officer’s here, remained calm and de-escalated the arrest by simply following routine police procedure and reassuring the detainee she would be treated with fairness. So, in this case, Professor Perry basically has to own up to the mistake she made in ignoring the tickets which caused her license to be suspended and a warrant issued for her arrest. Her decision to invoke racism and cloak herself as a victim is not only disingenuous, it discourages reform because it confuses the efforts of those truly concerned with eradicating unwarranted police misconduct against African Americans and other law-abiding citizens. Thanks for “manning up” Mr. Visconti. Now, it’s time for Professor Perry to “woman up.”

  • For all the racist people out there, along with Fox News and other conservative outlets the actions of Professor Perry have only fed the fire of negative opinion. The attitude will be “… see she lied – they all lie…” This is a case of one step forward 3 steps back. It would go a long way if a national Black Leader spoke up about this incident and reminded everyone that like Whites, Black people make mistakes too and the each of us should be judged as individuals

  • Another possibility. The Professor was wrong, no doubt. But one aspect of being constantly discriminated against is that out of the need for survival you began to guard yourself by monitoring every situation for racism. For example, when police pull you over you have to ask yourself “does this have to do with race, or is it simply law enforcement.” As you go through life, you get better at discerning when behavior is likely racist. At 59 years old I’m correct 95% of the time. How do I know? Because there are methods of verifying that one learns along the way. The professor is young and may not have the accuracy that us older folks have. So she may have taken this as a racist situation when it was not. But there is still another consideration. Do we know for a fact that whites in this situation are treated the same? There are two phases to this situation. First who gets pulled over. Second who gets passes (eg warnings and let go). In my city, the ACLU observed four major intersections. They found that blacks were pulled over, searched, and ticketed approximately three times the rate of whites with NO difference in behavior. Many, many studies have shown that blacks are stopped more, ticketed more, searched more, and whites indeed are given passes in situations where blacks are punished. So the Prof may be correct, even though the officers followed the law. The only way to know for sure is to observe officers behavior in the area over time. Here are a couple of studies that did just that and revealed the truth about DWB (driving while black) which is blacks are discriminated against. These are just a few, there are tons of studies that reveal this.
    http://downtrend.com/71superb/racism-alert-black-people-are-ticketed-for-traffic-violations-in-florida
    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/broken-windows-disproportionately-enforced-white-neighborhoods-article-1.1931171
    http://www.boston.com/globe/metro/packages/tickets/010603.shtml
    https://www.aclu.org/report/driving-while-black-racial-profiling-our-nations-highways

    • We are about the same age. I understand what you’re saying and agree with your general premise, it’s what this website has been very good at – illustrating how and why racism (and sexism, gay bashing, etc.) is so pervasive in our society – and the consequences of that bias, both personal and economic.

      However,racism had nothing to do with driving 22 miles an hour over the speed limit in a residential area – or (for Pete’s sake) not paying your parking tickets.

      Ultimately, a professor of African-American history at an Ivy League school, speeding in her luxury minivan, chose to align her little speeding/justifiably-suspended license incident with being choked to death for selling loosies, or being shot in the park for being a 12-year-old boy. She was able to receive national attention due to her position at the University.

      This was exposure of a character flaw, not exposure of racism. It would’ve been so much better had she just apologized instead of writing that self-absorbed essay. What on earth is she teaching in the classroom?

      You had some good links, Google New York Police Department Detective Louis Scarcella. Here’s a guy still walking free, put dozens of innocent people behind bars with outright fraudulent paid-for testimony. The district attorney is investigating 50 cases, I bet that’s the tip of the iceberg.

      Professor Perry’s behavior helps guys like that stay free.

      • Surprised you didn’t write “shot in the park for being a 12-year-old black boy.”

        And, from what I’ve read on the case, it was actually that he was shot in the park for being a 12-year-old boy threatening those passing by with a realistic-looking toy gun.

        • The video doesn’t show Tamir threatening anyone. The cop, Timmothy Loehmann, jumped out of his car and started blasting away. Loehmann had been fired from another PD for losing emotional control at a firing range – NOT the kind of guy you want patrolling your neighborhood.

        • Don’t trivialize his death. There were better ways to handle the situation. The 911 caller even said it may be a toy. There was a militia group of grown, white men carrying very real guns and not one of them lost their lives. How can you justify a 12 year old boy with a toy gun–in a park–losing his?

  • Agreed! Her and those three girls that cried wolf only make things worse for the valid cause of movements like BLM. And is does nothing to help the relationship between brown and black citizens and the police. All officers are not abusive, or malicious. And all brown and black persons are not saints. You make bad decisions (not paying your parking ticket, speeding 22 freaking miles over the speed limit), you have to deal with the consequences–no matter who you are.

  • Maybe this was a situation that you feel was blown out of proportion and maybe your desire to label it as you have is out of proportion, as well. The reality of any Black person being stopped by police officers in this country is a scary and suspect moment. Police officers have created this atmosphere and to blame any feeling of distress in any manner and just being afraid of their stops is a way of protecting a system that is severely flawed. She may have felt that this was a true occurrence and your labeling it otherwise shows the problem that Blacks face in this country. The fact that maybe it was not what it seemed could be true. She had some issues that she may or may not have been aware of. The expired license is something that she should have been aware of, no excuse. However, being black, stopped and mistreated by police officers is true and real. Most, if not all, Black people face this feeling when we are stopped by police officers. Unfortunately, I look out of my windows and into my mirrors often and when I spot a police officer, having nothing actual to fear, I know that the possibility of being stopped and harassed by them is always a possibility. It has occurred far too many times and there have been no real reason for the stops. Consequently, now this is always my first thought. Again, they have created this scary atmosphere.

      • I have watched the video. Having watched what happened in those few seconds does not negate my message. The facts are the facts. We do not know what happened after the videos. Maybe she reacted to a preconceived notion. This does make her decision to make this matter what it has become appropriate, but she may have had some real concerns about her situation. Sometimes people react to things in different ways, some good, some bad. This could have been the case here where she reacted bad, but it does not take away from the fear of what was maybe going through her head. From the video, the police officers seem to be very polite and conforming. Being the educated female she is could have had more reasoning. However, there is a fear of police officers when they stop us and should they arrest us. As I stated originally, they created this atmosphere.

        • I understand what you’re saying, but she smeared those police officers and was able to do that because she’s a professor at Princeton. She knows better, she’s a lawyer and a former law school professor. I don’t begrudge her for the privilege she’s earned, but that status comes with responsibility she abrogated when she wrote the essay in response to the criticism she deserved after making this non incident into a national situation.

          She was almost trump-like in immaturity.

  • I think the fundamental issue here, beyond race relations in America, is that of responsibility. Allow me to explain:

    First, Law Enforcement has been charged with the responsibility to Serve and Protect, and to do so in a respectful and dignified manner to all persons equally. Based on available information, they responded to a situation that clearly warranted attention (speeding in excess of 20mph over the posted speed limit), and escalated their response appropriately upon learning new information (the outstanding warrant). I also believe that that they did their jobs in a respectful and dignified manner, and I find it refreshing to see an example of Law Enforcement behaving responsibly.

    Second, there is the issue of personal responsibility. A license to drive is a privelege, and should be accepted responsibly. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, however it is up to the individual recognize and accept their mistakes, and take corrective action. Failure to do so may bring about punitive action, as in this case.

    Lastly, there is the issue of social responsibility as it pertains to race relations. I believe that indivuals of historically oppressed racial background (Black, Hispanic, Latino, etc.) have the responsibility to take notice and report situations in which they are victimized unjustly due to race. It is not unreasonable for a Black American to be inherently suspicious of the motives of white Law Enforcement Officers at first.

    Where this situation turned negative is the point at which the Professor attempted to escape her personal responsibility by creating a race issue where one likely did not exist. She further neglected her social responsibility to racial equality as her actions detract from reports of legitimate discrimination, and add fuel to the prejudiced argument that another minority is “just playing the race card.” The flaw was not with her thoughts, but with her actions. There’s no need to make a ‘martyr’ out of a molehill, especially when the stakes are so high.

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