What To Do When You’re Not White Enough For a Cop’s Liking
It was a bright and sunny Wednesday afternoon and I had just left my dentist’s office. I don’t think anyone leaves such a place in a great mood, however, I was just happy to be out of there.
No sooner than I pulled my sunglasses over my face and began my walk home, a cop strolled by me slowly, staring suspiciously.
Maybe it was The Notorious B.I.G. shirt I was wearing, the sunglasses I just put on, or the way I walked — or maybe he just hated my face.
Maybe he decided he didn’t like the way I looked or my haircut. Perhaps I just wasn’t white enough for his liking on a Wednesday — who knows?
Only two things are for certain.
1.) I hadn’t done nor was I planning or about to do anything remotely wrong or illegal
2.) He decided that didn’t matter and he was going to follow me anyway.
Profiling is a Common Practice Among Police
I made a left at the corner after he made a right. Yet moments later there he was driving by me, approaching from the opposite direction he had headed in.
I found it odd and it felt like he had circled around for no reason but I paid it and him no mind. Coincidence, I both figured and hoped. Somehow though, I knew better.
History and my past personal experience have taught me better.
My Native American skin tone often leads people to mistake me for being Latino or of Spanish descent. Cops especially. One night my cousin and I were stopped by cops on our way home, and the officer didn’t even try to pretend he wasn’t racist, as he had the nerve to ask my cousin “why she didn’t find a nice white guy to date”. He had wrongly mistaken us for an interracial company, didn’t like what he saw, and decided to stop us.
This incident and various others just like it began running through the front of my mind. Though it all was a long time ago, I wondered how much was really different. If things had changed, it was only because they had gotten worse.
America’s Police Problem Embodied
I crossed the street, then headed in the same direction I had been — before the very same cop drive down the same street I was on for the third time, approaching from behind this time, indicating he was just zig-zagging up, down and around the same street.
If he wasn’t an officer of the law, it’d be borderline stalker-like behavior. Apparently possessing a badge, gun and ridiculous amount of power somehow make it okay though. They call it “staking out” instead of stalking I reckon.
Regardless, I had been through this too many times to let it happen again. Though I hadn’t broken any laws, I knew that mattered very little. If this cop had decided he didn’t like the way I looked or was dressed, he’d find a way to justify whatever it was he decided to do to me.
Whether I was right or wrong, and what was fair or just would not be the decider of my fate if he decided to stop me — he would.
He’d decide if that was the day I was assaulted without reason by the people who are sworn to protect and serve the very same community they are quietly oppressing instead.
It’d then be up to him, if I spent the next 24 hours or so in a cell, with others who maybe did commit actual crimes, possibly even violent ones. Then again, we shouldn’t assume that just because they are in a cell. Innocent until proven guilty is supposed to be the standard. Rarely is it though.
At least some of my innocence would be lost in that moment. It wouldn’t matter I was innocent. Violence may end up being the only means to defend myself and leave that cell in one piece.
And not the cop that wrongly arrested me or the system which allows him and cops just like him to do the same thing to innocent people regularly, would give the first shit. Nobody cares what happens to those they presume are criminals, even if the presumption is wrong.
Protect and Serve
All of which I’ve stated above is problematic. Both the real and the imagined or feared. Because law-abiding citizens of every color should not have to fear the police if they’ve done nothing wrong.
The idea that anyone who is innocent fears police is a problem in itself. But it is now finally being realized as a burden of the state and country, rather than one of its citizens. The problem is within the system itself, and not with any single officer or district. The officers who break the law with impunity, are not indicative of how every cop conducts themselves, by any stretch.
But the fact it is widely known and accepted any officers knowingly and willingly break the law, rather than uphold it like they are sworn to, is a problem. Not one with an easy solution waiting nearby either.
Let me be abundantly clear, I am not for defunding the police, in any sense of the phrase. What I am for, however, is a complete audit and overhaul of both the system itself and the people who corrupt and poison it.
If a cop has had serious allegations or complaints made against them time and time again throughout their career, they should be investigated the same way any other citizen would. After all, police officers are still citizens of this country, our laws still apply to them — believe it or not.
I had seen this movie one too many times and didn’t plan on being forced to sit through it again. I refused to be stopped without just cause by a police officer and frisked for no reason. To have my civil and constitutional rights violated by a law enforcement officer who has sworn to protect and serve.
This happened to me no less than a dozen times growing up, all without reason. It seemed like every time a cop passed me, I was at the very least, stopped and asked where I was going. Again, those who are doing nothing wrong and haven’t broken any laws shouldn’t be required to explain where they’re going to a cop every few weeks.
So rather than needlessly endure once again being profiled and stopped by the police, I waited for him to make his now routine turn and then quickly made two quick turns myself to try and lose him, and easily did.
I sat down on a nearby bench and ordered an Uber to take me home. Spending seven dollars for a ride was better than possibly taking a ride to the local precinct for questioning, in the back of cop car — or worse.
I don’t know if there are any absolute answers to many of the problems America is currently facing and police abusing power and killing black people is certainly right at the top of that list.
While there may be no quick fixes, providing officers with far more training would be a start. We should consider a new approach to not only how we train our officers of law enforcement, but also what we are training them on and for.
This is not an attack on all police, it is merely another story about discrimination and abuse of power within our police force and a call for change from someone tired of being stopped by police without reason, and I’m not even black so just imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes.
Perhaps those times I had been stopped would have ended like so many black lives have at the hands of police officers, all across this country — abruptly and unjustly.
But that begs the question, how broken is our police system when I have to consider myself lucky for only being unjustly stopped and frisked by cops and not shot or choked to death in the streets by one without reason?
Until racism doesn’t exist and all cops are good people, incidents of profiling, and prejudices of some police officers will continue to take place and rear their ugly head into our lives. All we can do until then is stay alert and aware, of ourselves and our surroundings, and hope for a peaceful day.