“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
I rarely watch the news. I haven’t seen the video of George Floyd that’s sparked protests all over the country, and even around the world. It’s not that I don’t care what happened to George Floyd, but maybe that I care too deeply about people, about life, to watch someone die — in real life and not a movie — on my television screen.
My not watching the video is an effort to avoid the emotional toll that I’ve already experienced from seeing previous videos with similar outcomes. Then I saw a Facebook post in the form of a simple question that rocked my world. The answers to the question posed by my college classmate and former CNN reporter, Shannon Travis, reinforced every fear, cemented what I already knew, but hoped that I’d never face. I could be Breonna Taylor or George Floyd.
I’ve been profiled by the police, as have my mother, my father, my sister, my brother-in-law … I could make a very long list of every black person I know who has been stopped and questioned without probable cause. In my case I was purposely driving under the speed limit in an effort to avoid being stopped. It made me feel powerless, hurt, betrayed and angry.
Typically, I don’t write about police issues because I don’t want to be misconstrued as anti-police when I love my friends and cousins who put their lives on the line daily serving and protecting. I have been praying even more fervently for their safety in these perilous times.
However, I had a close officer friend, who is also African-American, tell me that he doesn’t trust many of the other officers that he works with. He further said if a shooting incident occurred, he wouldn’t be surprised if one of them turned their gun on him.
Because of all of this, because God’s grace has kept me and many others I know from becoming a statistic, I knew I needed to share in order to shed a light on the fact that age and socioeconomic class don’t matter. However, being black does when the bad apple presumes you’re a bad apple, too.
“How old were you the first time the police pulled a gun on you?”
Some of the answers:
“Age 11 walking home from the boys and girls club.” F.P.
“I was 15 years old. I was walking my grandmother to the bus stop early in the morning. I was walking back home and I heard my grandmother yelling down the street from the bus stop, ‘That’s my grandson!’ Thirty years later, I still remember that day.” F.L.
“I was 15 years old. They didn’t pull a gun, but they took me to the hospital because they said I fit the profile of someone who beat up an old lady. Meanwhile, at the hospital were 50 men surrounding her. She cursed the cops out and said, ‘I told you he was not black.’” J.W.
“They said I fit the description of a robbery suspect. I was a high school student with a 3.5 GPA, minding my business.” T.J.
“I was 17 coming from choir rehearsal. They pulled us out the car at gunpoint and made us sit on the curb. They refused to believe a car full of young black men were coming from church.” J.N.
“Age 19. Five minutes after dropping my mom to work. The cop told me he wishes I would’ve run so they could’ve done what they wanted to do to me.” C.N.
“It was about 1984 in Brooklyn and he asked, “What ya doing walking alone in these streets? Who you going to see? N*****s disappear all the time.’ And he laughed. Sadly not the last.” D.D.
I’m thankful that what happened to them never happened to me, that what happened to George Floyd never happened to any of them, and that any man or woman who encounters the police gets the opportunity to speak for themselves in the court of law instead of needing countless strangers honor their memory by speaking up for them.