I was going back and forth to see if I should address this subject for a while now. I would start then stop then start again. The subject had been a national issue since the early 1960s until now. There have been movies, videos covering the issue but nothing past the surface has been done in my opinion. The issue of police pulling over African American males. I recently watched the movie “The hate you give” which brought up some personal feelings about what happened in the movie. The premise of the movie surrounds the life of a teenager named Star. Star is a rising high school student who constantly battles between her home life and her school life.
Star reconnects with a neighborhood childhood friend Khalil who she hasn’t seen in a few years after a party. While driving home, they are stopped by a white police officer. The white officer, tells Khalil, who is black, to exit the car; while outside the car, Khalil reaches inside his car via the open driver-side window to check in on Starr. Starr tells to go back as Khalil picks up a brush. The white officer, misthinking fires three shots into Khalil, killing him. Starr in shock in the passager seat runs out the car to Khalil who was bleeding the officer now tells Starr to sit then asks “Where is the gun” the officer looks to the right to see it was a brush. Events live this has received national attention with the cell phone and dash camera videos going viral showing the events of African Americans being pulled over by police officers. In the past six months, I have been pulled over by the police three times and every time I have seen the flashing lights my anxiety is high. I realized that I have become desensitized to the alarming rate of African American males being pulled over.
Names like Laquan McDonald, Walter L. Scott, Samuel DuBose, Terence Crutcher, Keith L. Scott, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Alton B. Sterling, and the list goes on and on will always have an impact on the world. These traffic stops turned deadly in a matter of seconds. Now we face another tragedy of Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson who were killed in their homes.
Black men are afraid for their lives in the society we live in today. The fact that black minorities are pulled over by the police at alarming rates compared to white counterparts. It shows that race still plays a major part in the criminal justice system. I have done some research, along with life experience and watched documentaries like the 13th amendment which showed me how much I am valued as a black man in America. Being racially profiled is a real issue that happens every single day.
You can be a well educated African American male with a good job and still be treated like a criminal. I have had many instances where I have been followed in a retail store with the staff acting if they were working in the section that I was in. I remember when I was eighteen, I went into a store with sweat pants and a hoodie and was questioned by an older white employee about my intentions in the store. When I heard the question of “what can I help you with boy?’ I responded that I was looking for a suit. The employee pointed to the clearance rack and said you can probably afford one of those. I felt myself getting ready to go off but I just walked out without saying anything. In that situation should I have called him out or kept it moving?
Those incidents have happened to me so much that I forget how many it has happened. I have never forgotten the number of times I have been pulled over by the police. I have been pulled over thirteen times in the seventeen years since the age of 16 with my license. I will admit that six of the thirteen times I was breaking the law by violating the speed limit. The other incidents have been nothing far more than racial profiling. Every time I see the police or the state trooper, I get extremely nervous and start sweating profusely. My speech becomes shaky, my heart rates increases, and my mind starts spinning. This happens to so many African-American men that we often can suffer from PTSD.
My last incident with the police went like this:
I was driving on a two-way street heading home and I was talking to my mom on my headphones. I wasn’t speeding or going over the speed limit and I see a police truck coming toward me on the other side lane. I glanced in the rearview mirror after the officer passed me and saw the officer made a U-turn in the middle of the street. Immedleity my heart started to pound and I started sweating. I tried to stay calm and keep driving. The officer never put on his lights and I started to get more nervous so I drove into a nearby neighborhood.
As I began to turn around after heading down a dead-end road the officer flashed his lights. This was when the world stood still, the point where every sense was heightened. I turned off my car and put my hands on the steering wheel. As the officer approached I watch as he popped the holster on his gun. This was very suspicious because I have gone on numerous ride alongs while in college and in grad school where the officers have told me that they only suppose to unholster when feel their life is threatened.
With the flashing lights behind me. One of my biggest fears. I had NO IDEA why I was being pulled over. The cop got to my car and immediately asked for my license and registration.
All turned out fine. He told me he could give me a ticket for “reckless driving” but won’t do that and it’ll just show up on their local records if I’m pulled over again. How can you argue your point to the police with getting arrested for resisting or even contempt of cop? To me, it seemed like the cop was looking to find something wrong or a reason to give a ticket out.
I’m always in my car for long periods of time, I practically live in my car is my safe haven for eating, talking and sleeping. Commuting for long periods takes a toll on you mentally, spiritually physically and emotionally. Now I’m scared of it. Well, not of the car, but of me driving it.
As the cop was walking away I kinda apologized for asking him to repeat his same question (license and registration) again and again by saying, “I’m just really nervous cuz I have PTS…”. I didn’t finish the sentence. Kinda wanted to see his reaction: sympathy or the polar opposite (I’ve been wondering about it for a very long time).
He replied, “well, if ur not capable of driving safely, don’t drive. Take a bus or a cab. Just stay safe.”
10 Rules of Survival if Stopped by the Police
1. Be polite and respectful when stopped by the police. Keep your mouth closed.
2. Remember that your goal is to get home safely. If you feel that your rights have been violated, you and your parents have the right to file a formal complaint with your local police jurisdiction.
3. Don’t, under any circumstance, get into an argument with the police.
4. Always remember that anything you say or do can be used against you in court.
5. Keep your hands in plain sight and make sure the police can see your hands at all times.
6. Avoid physical contact with the police. No sudden movements, and keep hands out of your pockets.
7. Do not run, even if you are afraid of the police.
8. Even if you believe that you are innocent, do not resist arrest.
9. Don’t make any statements about the incident until you are able to meet with a lawyer or public defender.
10. Stay calm and remain in control. Watch your words, body language, and emotions.
Even as I read these survival tips, I still feel unsafe with police officers. I know I am not the only black man feeling this way. At any time we could be at the wrong place at the wrong time.