Today, when I got home I could hear my cell phone vibrating in the car. I’m in the middle of planning a research trip, helping my girlfriend permanently move, planning a video shoot and people are constantly contacting me with urgent questions. On top of all that, someone close to me passed this week. Sitting in front of my house, after getting home from work I find my phone to see if I need to answer the text immediately. I do.
As I unlock my phone I notice a police officer turn on to my street. Then we make eye contact. It’s a white female cop. I feel like she is going to harass me, but she can’t. I’m parked and the ignition is off. So she drives up the pass my house and sits, while I read and respond to text. After a few minutes, she U-turns then parks about a car link and a half behind me. I realize she doesn’t know if I’m coming or going. I know that if I start my car and put it in drive she will pull up behind me. I’m upset.
I’ve been in the same house for two years now. The profiling had stopped, I thought. I thought it was because I got to know all the police officers in my area. She is new. Then again, it could be because I have to be at work at 4am or 6am as appose to 11am and noon. I don’t even pass any police officers in my neighborhood now, when I leave at 3:15 am or later around 5:20 am on my way to work. I only use to get pulled over when I worked a mid shift, which means I had to be at work somewhere between 11 am and 1pm. Which makes me wonder if the police don’t pull over black people during certain hours of the day because they assume we don’t have jobs if we are out driving during those times.
I need to point out that I use to get pulled over regularly when we first bought a house in this neighborhood. In fact, I was pulled over so regularly I started to leave earlier for work to allow time for being stopped. Especially since on at least two occasions, I was held so long I had to call work so someone could relieve my coworker on time.
I don’t have the best looking car. I’d rather be able to afford to go out to eat or travel over having a new car. With a new car, you pay a car note and are required to carry comprehensive insurance unless you can buy the car in cash, which I can’t afford. Even then, depending on the value of the car you want to have more than liability. As a result, I have an old car with a V6 engine from 1995, no car note, and I pay less than what some people with new cars pay each month for the entire six month policy. I love my car, it gets me to work and wherever else I need to go. Still it’s an eyesore in my neighborhood. So I’m not always sure if it’s the car or my skin or a combination. Once a black police officer spotted me pulling out of my garage, we made eye contact and as soon as I pulled in the street from my alley he pulled me over. He never said why he was pulling me over and I didn’t ask, because I knew it was because he didn’t feel I belonged.
When I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, I never got pulled over in my daily routines. I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. However, whenever I drove thirty minutes outside the city to a predominantly white neighborhood where my cousin and his family owned a home, I’d get pulled over religiously if I left their house after the sun went down. It was literally a sundown town. A sun down town is a town, where blacks are expected to either be in the house off the streets, or out of the city by the time the sun went down. Otherwise, they’d be subject to lynching. Now a days, we are subject to racial profiling, false charges, citations and eventually economic lynching. Which I hadn’t thought about until tonight when I decided to share my history of profiling.
In Georgia, outside my cousins subdivision, the police always wanted to know where I was going, where I came from and then they’d run a check on my license and plates. Then I had an older car as well. In these instances I was never ticketed nor was I told why I was pulled over. I knew that I was black in a predominantly white neighborhood with an old car that stuck out like a sore thumb. I also new better than to ask why I was being pulled over. As a black person on the side of the road with just the police you are in a vulnerable position. The police can say whatever they want happened and you have to hire a lawyer to try to prove it didn’t. Not to mention, they could beat me, tase me, arrest me or pile on all kinds of fines. In the worst case, they could attack and kill me then claim self defense.
Every time I get out of a traffic stop, I count myself blessed I was not arrested. I can’t say I’m not falsely charged, because I consider unnecessary traffic tickets to be false charges.
Before I sat down to write this blog, I went to look up graphs and statistics on racial profiling. I wanted to post some of the graphs of traffic stops from across the country. Though they all supported and validated my theory about racial profiling, I didn’t share them because I wondered how they knew the race of drivers. I still wondered if the numbers were accurate. I wondered if the police informed them of every traffic stop. Especially since I get pulled over so often and don’t get ticketed. I wondered if I was included in those numbers. I wondered if it wasn’t worse than the number displayed.
Anyhow, I am going to talk about my history with the police. In Las Vegas, Nevada I bought another car outright. It was a 1995 car with a V6 engine. Definitely a step up from my 4 cylinder Nissan Sentra I use to drive in Georgia. This car came with these ridiculous rims and a window tint. However it was cheap and the seller was a friend of my dad. My dad knew the history of maintenance on the car. My dad loved the car and encouraged me to buy it.
I don’t know if it’s the car or me, but I’ve never been ticketed so often. Or maybe it’s Vegas. If they pull you over they are going to figure out a way to give you a ticket. In fact, Vegas is the first place I’ve been, where a police officer actually called my insurance company from his car to verify my insurance even though I gave him a valid insurance card when I presented my license, registration and insurance.
I don’t know if this is the official gang member car, or if it was my skin. I got pulled over as soon as I pulled off the lot the day I bought the car. The police officer waited at the gas station next door to the tint shop, where I was buying the car from the tint shop owner. I had to explain to the officer how I had a moving permit which is required in Nevada. I didn’t have plates because I had just bought the car and first had to have some test run on the car. The police officer researched every avenue he could to give me a citation. I’m not sure if the previous owner, my dad’s friend a white male had issues with the police, but he made sure I had all my paper work before he would sell me the car. Luckily, because the police officer didn’t have an opportunity to write me a ticket.
Over two years, I received the most tickets I’d ever gotten in my life. I hadn’t had a ticket since my teens, though I’ve been pulled over dozens of times. In Vegas, I got a ticket for getting over too soon to make a right turn. I received two tickets for making a right too soon. I got a ticket for yielding and not coming to a complete stop. I got a ticket for having out of state license for too long, driving my mom’s car a mile from her house. Which he only realized after following me for several blocks and pulling me over. In this instance, the officer didn’t initially give me a reason for pulling me over, which unfortunately is normal. I was pulled over constantly. I was once pulled over going two blocks from my house to a McDonald’s because the police officer said my license plates were suppose to have a light around it.
Then I moved to St. Louis, Missouri. As long as I lived in a black neighborhood I never had a problem. When we bought a house in a prodominantly white neighborhood, I was pulled over regularly. I was never given a reason for the stop. They’d simply ask me where I was going and where I’d been. Then, I’d registered my car in Missouri, but hadn’t changed my license over because I was still on a payment plan for the tickets in Nevada. They never mentioned it. They’d simply give me all my paper work back and go on.
I’m thinking about all this because lately a lot of my friends, coworkers, family and online connections have taken all the opportunities in media to discuss race: The Dominican Republican stripping dark skinned Dominicans of Haitian decent of their rights and deporting them to a country they’ve never been to. Rachel Dolezal, the white woman created all these extravagant lies to live as a black woman. The white male terrorist, who after joining a prayer meeting at a historically black church South Carolina opened fire and killed nine innocent black people.
I felt it was important to discuss my experience. It is important that as an artist I document this time. I have a lot of thoughts on how the media investigated and condemned Dolezal but didn’t mention The Dominican Republic’s recent policy which could set the stage for a modern day genocide. It is important to note how whenever people of color commit crimes they are condemned before they are arrested. If they are actually caught in the process of a crime they are usually killed but that’s another discussion. The point I’m making here is, when a white terrorist enters a black church and shoots it up, he has had a hard life and a mental disorder. When an unarmed black man is shot to death by the police, who are trained to engage physically with people, the black man is criminalized and the police go free.
It hasn’t been two weeks, since a white police officer on camera snatched and drug a black girl child in a bikini to the ground by her hair. Then rested all his weight on her. He was a full grown adult male and she might have weight 110 pounds. Still, he resigned and was able to keep his pension. If a black police officer had done that to white child he’s already be fired, charged and sitting in jail pending a child. Forget excessive force, he attacked her and should be charged like any other person. The video is racial profiling at it’s best. A white child is videoing the exchange and seems to be almost invisible. While this same racist officer shouts obscenities at any black child standing around.
Some have argued the kids were talking back, which isn’t supported by the video. Still, giving the benefit of doubt, that’s what teenagers do, talk back and think they know every thing. I work in the service industry, people talk shit to me all the time, but I’m not allowed to tase or beat them… I can’t kill them for being rude. I can’t file false charges or issue unwarranted citations. I’d be fired for even asserting personal boundaries and telling people about themselves. I can’t tell you how many times someone has had a bad day and felt it was okay to be rude. I deal with racism on a daily basis. Several of my co-workers (who happen to be white) could be standing around together having a conversation while I’m actively helping someone, and a white customer will still ask if I’m willing to work. I’m not even trained to deal with people who have mental illness, I make way less than a police officer and I have to show better personal restraint. Why is that?