I was taught to be a gentleman. I was taught to be respectful to other, to give and earn respect. My family raised me to stand tall, to look others in the eye, to be honest and fair. I was taught not to judge or idolize other people as we are all Gods creation. I was taught to work hard and aim for the stars, that anything was possible. I was told I could do anything I set my mind to, that my only limitation was my imagination. For most of my days on this planet what I was taught and what I have learned have not always matched up.
My parents moved our family the drug infested city to a quiet Florida town when I was an adolescent. There goal was to give us a better chance to grow up without worrying about threats of violence or the trappings of crime. More importantly, they knew that we didn’t have to be involved in crime to have possible negative interactions with law enforcement.
Jay-Z has a line in the song “Do it Again” in which he says the lines “I Seen the same thing happen to Kane – Three cuts in your eyebrow tryin to wild out “. Well, long before that song I was a fan of Big Daddy Kane and would want to be as cool as him, so as you can guess with the influence of some older teens I shaved cuts in my eyebrow. I had no idea the slits would have meaning. Looking it up would explain that slits in the eyebrow can mean gang affiliation, or like the teardrop it could count the amount of intentional crime the bearer may have committed. Now I know it could also just mean I was trying to seem cool and failing but to a stranger it could be a different story. My parents freaked out when they saw me. They couldn’t understand what I was thinking. As a kid I couldn’t understand why they weren’t cool it was just slits. This is why I love them though…they sat me down and explained what they feared about me making such body modification. Keep in mind this was the late 80’s…tattoos were strictly for sailors or someone with some jail time. Piercings were really only in the ears or maybe the nose if they were super freaks, so body modifications were not the norm. This was my first police conversation.
My parents were concerned that if someone, with similar slits in their eyebrows, had committed a crime and the police came looking for the person I could easily be mistaken for that person and be taken to jail. They explained it was as equally important to avoid the police as it was to avoid the criminals. They told me about the night my uncle was arrested and put in jail because a false witness claimed he raped a women. He was later released and charges dropped since he bared no resemblance to the real rapist, but he did spend a weekend in jail while they figured it out. From that point I learned to avoid law enforcement. Respect them but stay away from them.
Dave Chappelle has a joke where he explains that we want to call police for help too but we don’t because we know they would never believe that we were the victim. The rift between civilians and law enforcement is not new. It has been in existence to some degree all my life. I have a hard time recalling any music, shows, or movies where law enforcement was painted in a positive light. I have to think back to Andy Griffith show or Swat if I want to see a police system that doesn’t have some sort of corruption in it. Think about it, what positive police story do you know about. The last one I know happened a few years back when an officer bought shoes for a homeless man. Turns out that was for a photo opportunity and may not have been the most genuine act.
This is not to say that police have not done remarkable work or have not helped in some way but it’s more to say they have a bad reputation and refuse to try to improve it. They risk their lives to try to make a difference in crime and that is commendable. I just can’t report that I know of them collectively attempting to make a positive difference in anyone’s life. Corruption, quotas, abuse of power, law breaking, apathy, and violence are too easy to associate with the system built to protect and serve.
I will admit I am prejudiced about law enforcement. They are out to arrest as many people as they can to boost their numbers. They will plant drugs on me, they will say I fit the description of a man that did – fill in the blank-. They will search my car, my house, my person. They will arrest me in public and release me in private. They will judge me before they say a word to me. They will shoot first and ask no questions. They will lie, cheat, and steal to close their case. They will ignore facts to make it work. They will harass me. They drink, they do drugs, they cheat on their families, they take bribes, they beat people up. They are disrespectful and rude. They are disorganized and out of shape. They are racist to all and are dirty. They are a gang. “Losers” and “Thugs”. They are lazy and scared, dumb and will never go on to do anything good but take tax payer money and live off the system. Not you, you’re one of the good ones. Some of my friends are officers. If they would just be good they wouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Protect and Serve. Look out for me, support me, assist me, prevent harm from coming to me, guide me…these are all part of the job too. Where has that gone? Has the institution fallen victim to the money grab trap where corners are cut to the limit and you only focus on numbers? Do you not want to be better?
As a black man, I follow the rules and have been luck enough to not have to interact with law enforcement. I want you to know I still know what to do when I get pulled over or stopped. I open all the windows, I turn off the car and turn off the music. I have both hands on the wheel and don’t make any sudden movements. I use my best English, speak slowly and clearly. I announce my movements. I answer with Sir, please and thank you’s. I don’t raise my voice and try to smile. I don’t argue or challenge the offense. I do everything I can to survive and limit the time that I have to interact with law enforcement. That should give me about a 50-50 shot to make it home. If I see a cop on the street I might cross the street. If I am near them I make sure I know the exits and keep an eye on their body language. As you are aware I have to be extra careful with what I do or say to de-escalate situations or I might die. If you have never felt that in you life, be blessed. Tell any officer you know to stop brutalizing and killing black people.
This is my experience. I don’t expect it to be yours but understand it could be. Please don’t think because you are not black you have it any easier. You can and will get the same treatment on any given interaction. Especially now. You see my friends you have joined in standing up to police to get them to change their ways. Well now, they will either treat us all better or treat us all worse. Our number 1 cop has called for harsher treatment and has not called for reform so expect some really interesting interactions to come. We won’t be able to call it racist if the next televised beating is of a beautiful young white male. (They will miss the point that we want them to stop beating and killing us not just stop killing and beating black people.) We might lose that point as well if we are not careful.
Please listen to the podcast Serial (season 3). It’s about the Cleveland Judicial system. It gives you a clear view of what happens when people are arrested and get into the system in any state. That entire judicial institution needs an overhaul and it’s own blog.
A word of advise. Don’t believe everything the media shows you. They have an agenda to sell horror. They won’t show you everything and they won’t show you anything positive. They will turn and twist the perspective to give the most horrific point of view. The worst witnesses, the worst angles, then they will yell “see, see, look how bad this is”. They spread negativity and promote violence and crime. They can just as racist as anyone they just hide it with fancy words. They will distract you with the new crazy story and not completely stop talking about the last thing. Is Kim Jung Un still alive?, What happened to R Kelly, or Harvey Weinstein? It the Talaban still an issue? Are we still at war? Didn’t someone attack one of our ships? I healthcare reform still an issue? What about the wall, who’s paying for that? Are people still locked up in detention centers with family members missing? Is Michigan water still brown? What about global warming, is that still a thing? Oh is Covid-19 still a thing? Are people still dying? Are there still mass graves and ice body trucks?
The news and media will corrupt the truth. They will hide the truth from you. They will tell you something is bad for you this week and good for you next week. They will give out your name as a evil person but when you are found innocent you might get a 2 sentence back page update saying you were released and innocent. The news is not your friend no matter what team you support.
Media people do better. Police do better. The entire judicial system do better.
Minority people we have to protect ourselves and each other. If you see something crazy in the neighborhood and you can help, help. Travel in groups so you have witnesses and alibis. If an arrest is going down film it so they can’t plant drugs on us or lie on us. Let’s eat better. Let’s build our communities. Help your neighbor, if you are mowing your lawn ask the neighbor if they need help with theirs. If you know how to work on cars and you see your neighbor with a beater on the lawn ask them if they need help with it. Let’s beautify our neighborhoods. Lets put cameras up around our homes on a closed circuit network so we can self patrol and not depend on the government to do it. They don’t want us to do well so lets do better than that. Let’s build our money, let’s go our families. Let’s support local, mom and pop shops. Let’s vote and build community outreach. Let’s hold all the politicians accountable. If they aren’t doing we vote in who will. I don’t mean accept people the put in our face, pick the right people and grow them to do what we ask not what the money tells them to do. I you see corruption happening spread the word so we know who’s out hear taking money and not representing us. This goes for any so called national support group that you find out is not support like they claim. Let’s not fall for the nonsense anymore. Don’t let them distract you or try to force you into doing something that will hurt you.
Thank you for reading this. I am numb about what has happened in these past weeks but I am hopeful that change will happen. Stay focused on the issue and on the goal…don’t let them change the narrative or tell us what we want. We are here for each other and calling for reform and justice. Don’t forget that.