By Ernie McCray
Someone on Facebook posted, regarding the recent “pool party” event in McKinney, Texas: “If you don’t like the interaction you’re having with the police, just trying obeying the law.” A comment was made saying that what happened could have been avoided if the girls had just acted responsibly and obeyed the laws.
I couldn’t help but think “There are pool party laws?” But, as to “obeying the laws,” I’m down with that. I’m just opposed to somebody, who is hired to uphold the law, slamming those who don’t obey the law to the ground or kicking them in the face or choking them or executing them in the streets.
And it was mentioned that if we, the public, had seen what happened before the officer went ballistic, we might change our minds about what we did see.
Well, what we’ve seen in these injustices, some of them taking place when no crime was even committed, is: no matter what the living hell was that the cop had to endure, it’s over. He’s won the battle. It’s time for him to simmer down and finish the arrest like he’s been taught to. Perhaps, while writing his report, he can scream to the heavens about what he went through and then reflect on how he did things the way he was supposed to. It’s what good cops do.
What’s particularly sad about these situations is that often a law is broken by the police, a precious law, The Bill of Rights, which gives American citizens the right “to be secure in their persons,” in other words, the right to be left alone.
A truth to be pointed out here is that, unfortunately, black folks, over time, have been excluded from being protected by such a law.
This country has tolerated such blatant racism way too long, and the police, generally speaking, have never been able to leave a brother alone. To that I can testify.
I remember a time when I was a teenager cruising in my mom’s Pontiac, posturing with one hand on the steering wheel, flashing my “What’s happening?” smile to whoever was stepping down the street. I was just wallowing in my coolness.
Then up behind me comes a police car with the lights blinking and the siren blasting for a quick second. A cop gets out with his gun drawn, concerned, he says, that I didn’t “acknowledge” him when he was at the corner in the liquor store parking lot. He never explained why he had tried to wave me to a stop. At the end of the ordeal he says “You better watch yourself.” Was that ever good advice.
A couple of years after that, I had to “watch” myself while jogging home after basketball practice in Bear Down Gym at the University of Arizona. Mr. Do Right would cruise up beside me with (this scene played out each of my four years): “Where you going in such a hurry? You seem nervous. I’m going to keep an eye on you!”
On my first full day in San Diego, I headed to Mountain View Park to shoot some hoops and the next thing I knew I was up against a fence, next to every other baller, who, like me, was black, of different heights and weights and hair textures and hues – all of us, apparently, fitting the description of some brother who had committed a crime down the street. And then he decided to play a game of pickup basketball? C’mon, y’all.
And I can still feel the adrenaline rush from a night I stepped out of my apartment to go buy some milk for my twin daughters. As my feet touched down on the top step I hear “Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees!” Everywhere I looked I could see police officers with their revolvers pointed at me and they screamed the same command over and over again like the cop in McKinney yelling to the girl “Get your ass on the ground.”
You start thinking “Do I not know my body parts because I’m sure I’m down on my knees with my hands on my head.” And I knew if I as much as sneezed or lost my balance I would be stone cold dead.
Turns out they were looking for a white man who was about five feet tall, as pale and chunky as the Pillsbury Doughboy and I was tall and dark and fit. Abs. Solid arms and legs. The whole bit.
The SDPD explained to me that they “were just doing their job.” Yeah, on me.
So, as one who has never been a criminal by any definition, I have to ask, since this kind of stuff has been going on with folks like me since slavery up until now at this stage in the 21st Century: When will it end?
When will the good cops police the bad ones and when will Americans see to it that all citizens’ civil and human rights are respected?
No one has to answer right now but tomorrow we should get to work on this.
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