As I wrote today’s poem, fragments of previous discussions floated through my mind:
“…be still or they’ll beat your ass…”
“sit down and shut up…”
“…shot an unarmed teen…”
“…only going to laugh at you…”
“…you can’t win against the police; they protect each other…”
“…was just walking down the street…”
“…driving while black…”
“…walking while black…”
“…breathing while black…”
Memories of these previous conversations that reflect feelings about policing in the black community stirred up softball sized memories of songs I’ve heard before, songs with the message “f*** the police” at their central core.
The first time I heard the line, “f*** the police,” I was a teenager and had not had any encounters with the police. It was just a catchy tune and nice beat, so I danced to it and sang along with the rappers.
Sadly, since then, I’ve had many interactions with the police. I have three memories, in particular, that threaten to color the way I will view the police forever.
No, I haven’t experienced anything on the level with what many believed happened to Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. Or Eric Garner. Or John Crawford. Or Ezell Ford.
But I do know what it feels like to be stripped of my dignity & humanity by a police officer who deems me something other than who or what I am.
Here are my three incidents:
1. Four white officers pull me over late one night as I’m leaving work. They threaten to whip my ass because I started crying. I was afraid. And that fear was fed with their threats to beat me with their night sticks.
2. Mother’s Day a few years ago, I call the police because my then-husband was fighting me. They told me I was wasting their time and had ruined their Mother’s Day. They were all male officers. And black.
3. A couple of black officers stop me near the University of Memphis, a school where I received two degrees and where my three children currently attend. The officer had no reason to stop me, spent more than 30 minutes trying to come up with a reason to give me a citation (even was down in the back of my car studying my tags). Pissing off the police. I wanted to know what was going on. I foolishly believed I had rights, but they taught me that night, that I have none. And the next day when I spoke with the officers’ superiors and was brushed off, I learned a lesson more valuable than any that I could have learned as a student at the University of Memphis.
I learned that the lesson we teach our children: that they have to be better than people of other races to even be seen as human, that they will automatically be seen as criminals and thugs until they can prove otherwise…well,those lessons amount to nothing. The officers I have come in contact with have taught me that I will never be anything that a low-class nigger with a couple of degrees and that my voice will never carry further than my own house or social circles where we sit around and collectively release a sigh of frustration that we can never be enough or do enough.
Does my black skin
Does my nonchalance
incite you &
allow you to draw from
the lies told to you
that black people are
beneath you, even though
you, sir, are black too.
And while I’m here sir
allow me to disabuse you of the
mentality that my black skin
automatically gives you just
cause to harass & abuse me.
I’m tired of having to fly
under the radar of your misconceptions
cause you mistakenly believe
guilty of living while black,
breathing in my mortality
like carbon monoxide, so yeah
I’m thinking I want to say
“F*** the police.”
This is not a scarlet F
I wear on my chest, I
have no desire to bear responsibility
of the handful of colored people who
know they are free to f*** up daily.
I’m tired of accepting
the futility of
struggling to be free
when the overseer has been
replaced by the gun-toting police.
Police who find me guilty
constantly, of driving, living
dreaming, and breathing while black.
That’s why you stopped me
because you were unable to
wrap your mind around the possibility
that I was guilty of …. NOTHING.
Your supervisor gave you a badge &
the responsibility of stripping away
my dignity, layer after layer, until
I’m small enough to cower beneath you.
So, yeah, I think I’m ready to say
“F*** the police.”
But I’ll say it quietly
because next time it could be
me lying dead in the street,
guilty of pissing off the police.
Peace & Love,