I Was Afraid
Over this past Fourth of July long weekend, I spent most of it working. I had to get up earlier than usual and because I live in the the hood, the big booms started early. I hate that but, I dealt with it. I dealt with drunken fools shooting off sparkly loud shit, I dealt with drunks. A few very weird things happened, including being catcalled by a man in a truck festooned with Confederate flags.
That Tuesday night, one of my neighbors was really drunk. He is always loud but on the holiday he was extra loud. He’s an older Black man and he was grilling shirtless, drunk and had some fireworks. I was worried. He dislikes me quite a bit and I listened to him rant and rave, talk about the big booms. I wanted to do something. I wanted to call the police to take the fireworks so maybe he’d be safe and then I remembered it is 2017 and an aid call, or a welfare check could mean death.
Wanting him to have someone in a position of authority to not let him be that drunk and hurt himself, could have been his death sentence. What if, I called and he had a metal spatula the police mistook for a machete? What if, he was drunk enough to call a cop a pig or rant about how the kids these days don’t have no respect and the police got scared of him, all of 5'7" and maybe 150 pounds and both “forgot” non-lethal options? What if, they haven’t taken their four hours of deescalation training?
I could not in good conscious take the risk, even at the risk of the big booms in the hands of a very drunk old man.
On my way home later that week, I saw a Black person heavily intoxicated, in need of help and when police approached, my hands started to shake and I couldn’t even think to get out my phone. I stood as close as I dared without becoming a suspect myself, an ambulance came and I went on to my bus stop.
I have been hesitant to call police or interact with them in any capacity since I was a teenager. When I was a kid, I believed that they wouldn’t bother me if I was somehow better, if I wasn’t walking home, if I didn’t look a certain way (too Black), if I could have figured out some secret formula to not being a suspect it would have been fine. I know better now. I know that when a bike cop almost ran me off the sidewalk after yelling at me to move, on a sidewalk with more than enough space, I knew better when I was “detained” for “having contact” (saying good evening to a houseless person). I knew when I had a police officer following me home every night and scaring the shit out of me- I knew that I am not included in those they are there to protect and serve.
I hate this.
I hate that once, on my way to work I found a woman panicking and trying to get someone, anyone on the street to call 911 because her girlfriend was od’ing in the bus shelter. Nobody but me stopped. I gave her my phone and sat with the od’ing woman, I slapped her face and yelled at her and kept her semi-conscious and held her hand. When the ambulance was on the way, the other woman gave me back my phone and told me to go. She knew too.
I don’t want to be afraid when I see a cruiser slow down to check out what I’m doing while I’m walking home. I don’t want to open up social media and see news of another terrifyng Black person extra-judicially executed for seeming dangerous, for complying, for whatever reason. I don’t want to know that even if I was a former police officer, I would still feel this danger. I don’t want to know that, if I need help, there is a chance if I am panicking, hysterical or otherwise figured to be “dangerous” to men with guns, that I could die.
I don’t want to die for being Black.
Whether or not there are good cops no longer matters. The well is poisoned. A few feel-good articles about cops being held up as stellar for doing the job they signed up for without beating anyone half to death or terrorizing 12-year olds won’t change the fact that decades of strong arm tactics and now live feed, murder without consequences has ruined policing as we know it.
I wish I had a solution that doesn’t involve justice I have no faith in. The solutions are there but, I’m afraid we’re in too deep. Too many people have been murdered. We’ve shown that even with video, with live feeds all these trained peace officers have to say is, “I was afraid.”
None of us are safe. None of it is right and I believe, we are fucked.
That said, I’m going to live my life. I’m going to continue to follow my conscious as best I can and help people when I can. And I hope, I never have to call the police or need help again. If I do, and I don’t survive, remember you read this and know that, I was afraid.