I walked into my classroom today to talk statistics and census data. Before I could even get it moving in the right direction I had a student ask me my opinion about the recent array of police shooting of black men across America over the past few years.
I took a deep breath and decided that it was time to hit the reset button and re-calibrate my answer before going off on a tirade in the class and scaring the heck out of the predominantly majority population that was present. So I hit the young white male who asked the question with “give me a minute because I want to make sure I give you something you can take home with you.”
After re-calibration was complete I spoke openly about what it means to be a black man in society. You aren’t looked at like other people. In fact you aren’t given the benefit of the doubt. I’ve had instances where I’ve been humiliated or pressed to oblige because a police officer decided that they wanted to assert their power over a black man .
As recently as last year I was working at a game. I do freelance television work and I was to report to a highly touted basketball game just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The game was sold out and security was in high volume to keep those who weren’t getting in at bay. I arrived at the game and told the officer at the door that I worked for the television company that was doing the broadcast and I would be doing the color commentary for the men’s game. She went away from the door and came back and said that no media was to get in the door for the game. I was like okay cool, I’ll be right back.
I left and walked to the television entrance and I was confronted by a cop. I asked him to walk around to get my supervisor who was running cable to get the broadcast going. The cop flexed on me and started yelling. His exact words were “You aren’t getting in here, carry you black ass right back out of that door.” I responded politely and said “all I’m asking you to do is to go get your athletic director or my supervisor and they will explain to you who I am and that I will be working the broadcast.”
The cop didn’t want to hear that so I turned away and said I’ll be right back and started to leave. Then he said, “Your dumb better not come back or there’s gonna be problems.” I turned around and asked him what he had just uttered and he started walking towards me. At that point I forgot who I was and where I was and told him that he didn’t want to go there. I had my backpack on and I started to remove it and he reached for his taser. He pulled the trigger on the taser and it hit the book bag and I dropped it. I asked him what he was doing and he told me to leave. He kept coming towards me and by this time people were piling around us as the situation started to escalate.
He then reached for his firearm and pulled it out on me. I just walked out the door and went and got the producer from the television truck. I told him the situation and he told me to come with him. We walk in the door together and the cop stops us. He tells him that he can go but I can’t and he reaches for his fire arm and pulls it out on me. I just stare him down and then another cop who happened to be black came out and intervened. He pulled me to the side and told me to stand down. I did. Another young cop ran to get the athletic director of the school who pushed his way through the crowd.
The athletic director then told me to come on in and was obviously embarrassed. I started walking towards him and the cop got indignant. He said, “he’s not coming in here and that’s that.” The athletic director then told him that he would be excused of his duties for the remainder of the night since he was being paid to be there by the school and that he needed to step out of the way. As I walked by the cop who told me to stand down walked up to me and told me that I handled it well, but he was afraid I was going to get shot because he saw that I wasn’t afraid.
Later after the broadcast the athletic director and the mayor both came up to me and offered up an apology. Ironically on my way home after the game I got pulled over before I could even get on the highway. That my friend is the fate of being black.
After finishing my story the kid just looked at me and said, “so what you’re saying is that you’re lucky to still be alive?” I simply shrugged and said, “every black man is lucky to still be alive, whether they know it or not.”