I came across this piece last night on Gawker while I was discussing the ins and outs of the justice system from the Black male perspective. That’s an entirely different post for some other time.
In The Price of Blackness, Akinsiku relates one of his stories of an interaction with police. Most of us Black men have them, whether we tell you or not. It’s almost a rite of passage of sorts. I’ll let him explain it.
To be black and interact with the police is a scary thing. The fear doesn’t have to come from any kind of historical antagonism, which, trust me, would be enough; it can also come from many data points of personal experience, collected over time. Almost all black men have these close-call-style stories, and we collect and mostly keep them to ourselves until one of us is killed. You know how the stories go: I was pulled over one day and the cop drew his gun as he approached my window; I was stopped on the street, handcuffed and made to sit on the sidewalk because the cop said I looked like a suspect; I had four squad cars pull up on me for jaywalking. We trade them like currency. And it almost goes without saying that these stops are de facto violent, because even when the officer doesn’t physically harm you, you can feel that you’ve been robbed of something. The thing to remember is that each of these experiences compounds the last, like interest, so that at a certain point just seeing a police officer becomes nauseating. That feeling is fear.
Now, many of us Black men have friends or family that work in law enforcement. Even with that, it’s still a somewhat frightening experience when you see those blue lights approach you and the officer exits the vehicle.
The other day, I was reading comments about people and their interactions with being pulled over. One person mentioned how he told the officer that he had a gun in his vehicle. He went on to say that he and the officer had a lengthy conversation about guns and such. Now, contrast that with a friend of mine who is an officer. He got pulled over by another officer. When my friend told the officer that he had a gun in the vehicle, the officer unholstered and drew his weapon while dropping back behind the vehicle, ready to open fire on my friend. Guess which one was White and which was Black?
I’m not going to suggest that every officer is like that, because I know that’s not the truth. However, there is a certain amount of fear amongst us in anticipation of encountering the quick draw officer when we’re stopped. I simply offer this perspective as America goes on yet another soul search because of the events happening in Ferguson, MO.