The lights on the patrol car pulsed in the twilight, painting the interior of the car and its contents. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. “I’m gonna need to see your license and registration.” The evening’s humidity was sticky; it grabbed at me. My heart beat faster; the blood pumped on overdrive; perspiration collected. Fight or flight? Dunno. My thoughts were near panicked. How do I survive this situation?
The stressor chemicals dropped from their tanks, emptying themselves into my blood stream, and traveled to my brain. My fear was amp’ed. An immediate reaction to a situation where so many Black men had fatally, fallen victim. I know all the stories. Fortunately, I had just enough wits about me to talk myself down. Play this cool and hopefully you can walk away from this. Be cool.
“What are you doing in this neighborhood?!”
“Who are you visiting?!”
“What’s their address?!”
The officer shot off the questions in rapid fire succession. He was over six feet tall; a monstrous bear of a man. He wore glasses. His head held a basic haircut, projecting what I assume was his perception of an image of how an Everyman of the community ought to appear. His hand on his gun; eyes intense; perspiration collected. His mind assessing; eyes taking aim.
As is standard procedure, he kept his hand on the grip of his gun. The knowing didn’t make me any more comfortable than not knowing this bit of information. I just wanted to diffuse the tension.
The stressor chemicals dropped from their tanks; emptying themselves into his blood stream and traveled to his brain. I looked him in his eyes and answered his questions, one by one. Wrong place, right time; wrong time, right place; right or wrong?
Regardless of the consequences, I found myself back in front of a bullet. A place I thought I had escaped once I slid my way through the gap in the fence that allowed for a restricted view on a better life. The missing boards, having been pried off, lay on their side with the book spines facing outward; stiff with their title lettering in tact. Most of us huddle inside the fence, oblivious, far from it’s borders, never questioning it’s presence or it’s purpose. A construct designed to keep us in bliss or make us accessible?
The bullet, always hung just over the shoulder, ever present when I changed city buses, took ill advised shortcuts through alleys, and turned the key to let myself into the safety of my home. I dodged it on the street corners of city streets on inopportune times that were the right moments to catch a bullet.
I grew up along the borders of a zip code where one in two Black men know the inner workings of the criminal justice system; spending a lot of time there with the Sun on my face, riding bikes, skate boarding, and hooping. We occupied our time with showtime Lakers pick up games, Isiah crossovers, and Marino arms; parting the streets when traffic came through.
I graduated from the rough edges that outlined that portion of the city, where the bullet stalked behind boarded up homes, bald and dusty lawns with rusty tricycles and plastic swimming pools. Where the natives lived out their sugar coated, diabetic days, living with high blood pressure and sorrow, dreaming on a better tomorrow. It’s the year 2016, but we are still eating the poor parts of a diet. Instead of left over pig intestines we dine on engineered processed foods. No blood can be found above the doors to this place, our community, our home. Death pays a visit to each. What the bullet doesn’t devour Death claims by disease.
“I’m gonna need you to step out of the car!” My heart raced as I stepped out from behind the steering wheel.
“Is there a problem officer?”
“Shut up! When I need you to talk, I’ll tell you!”
I graduated from a masters degree program, as well from the Class of Twenty-Five, thanks to a recent birthday. Twenty five is the age at which my survivability increased as I was no longer a member of a club to be a prime suspect or the victim of a homicide. Each year, on their respective anniversaries, we drop a kangol on the spot where my cousin fell silent and remember the street where a friend was paralyzed by the bullet. Angel and devil alike, the bullet consumes all. With my life, mostly in front of me, my outlook was positive.
I thought I was a safe distance away from the bullet; the jungle’s top predator. But here I was again, staring into the darkness of a GLOCK. Despite my best efforts, this situation had escalated. If it is capable of appreciating a bit of irony, it appears life is not without a perverse sense of humor. I had now become a member of another demographic that also had a high rate of mortality – Black males interacting with police.
I could hear the bullet whispering from inside the barrel. You were always mine to have. Go ahead! Fly, Black man fly!
“When one is oppressed, we are all oppressed.”
by malakhai jones
img src: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5163436ce4b0b470bd1fbb00/t/53bc1614e4b0c9db7aa6b855/1404835358640/Defense45J.png?format=500w
Police oppression is something really serious to look at because the people took a oath to protect the citizens but what happens when it’s them we need protection from
I agree completely!
Your story reflects the sad state of affairs our country has fallen into. I can see both sides of the issue, but though I see and understand, I don’t know how to fix it, and Lord help us, it badly needs fixed. No matter the color of our skins, we all bleed red.
Yeah, my story was simply to bring one perspective to it. I gave a bit from the officer’s perspective in the moment, but I wanted to focus a back story on being a black male in that situation.
And you did it well. 🙂
This is a great piece! I feel this, of course. Police in black neighborhoods terrorizing us all day. I like how you said his hand was on the gun the whole time : too real.
Glad you captured some of the emotion of this!
Thanks Darryl! I pretty much just pulled from me and my dudes’ experiences on this one. Fortunately, in those situations things stayed level. I’ve had many different types of encounters with law enforcement. It’s just that this type is intense and emotional as hell. And it needed to be written about. Again, I appreciate your time, attention, and the feedback on my pieces, Bruh.
Thank you Marquesa! I appreciate your feedback.
Wonderful, raw, emotional, candid piece right here. I only wish that you didn’t have to write it or that it was merely a work of fiction. I agree 100% with the closing statement: “when one is oppressed, we are all oppressed.”
I’m hoping that by spreading awareness, we can make a difference. People need to understand that if we, as a people (and by that I mean the entire human race), allow any group of people whether based on race, religion, lifestyle preferences, etc. to be treated in an unjust manner, it puts all of us at risk because it creates an opening for the idea that we can treat each other that way and we most certainly cannot. It would also be fabulous if the media would stop trying so to hard to pit people against each other, thereby causing ongoing dissension and division in the ranks. I have actually started to notice something positive coming from the multitude of atrocities going on across the world. People who were previously on opposing sides are coming together as a united front and demanding peace and justice for all. That’s pretty cool to witness and I think it’s going to continue. People are finally waking up to the fact that as a species, we can’t choose sides. In fact, there can only be one side and the entire human race must be standing on it together. I’m looking forward to that day and in the meantime I’ll be doing what I can to help lead us up to it. Thank you for sharing your story and your gift of writing with all of us. It’s through stories such as this that we can look at what needs to change in this world and start doing something about it. Then, one day your story can become a distant memory and hopefully you’ll be busy writing about other matters – life affirming ones, if we can get our act together in this world and make it safe for everyone.
Thank your for the feedback and the insightful comments “yours truly.” You said it all so eloquently and thoroughly, there’s nothing left for me to add, besides…true words spoken.
so important so well said
Thank you Candice!
This is freaking awesome. Th literal bullet and bullet analogy is such a great way to express this story. I was in that car following each thought and seeing this fat cop sticking a gun in my face. This really hits home right now with me as it should for everyone with a president who was elected who freely speaks about his prejudices against everyone except white rich men. People like him make me physically ill and people like him are ok with the situation you described and worse. We are building a wall in our country just to show how narrow minded and bigoted some of us are. Wow how smart do we look to the rest of the world? How did we step this far back MJ? Well I just thought that needed to be said – your story is awesome as they always are. 👊🏻
Initially what I am typing here may not be quite evident on a first read, but we are all victims of the system. The cop and the Black male. We are so busy trying to “get” and “keep” while we are constantly being distracted from the real problems and perpetrators of crimes against humanity. We spend too much time at the bottom, fighting one another to take what we each don’t have to give instead of turning our attention toward those who are constantly taking from us. We are all rendered dumb and blind by our individual greed.
I got this on the first read right MJ? I may have taken it to a different direction, but I think I redirected to the taking from us part
You got the intent of the story. I was taking it one step further in my reply. 😉
Good – I would like to think we are still on the same brain wave ..
We are indeed on the same wavelength. 🙂
Great piece! Insightful and compelling. And extremely sad. I worry for my brothers and my father constantly, with reason. I become scared and angry every single time a police car drives by, with reason. This is a police state, and for those in power, denial is the best short-term solution. Slave catchers and patrolers turned into KKK turned into police. It has always been a police state. What angers me is there is no accountability or recourse when there is a wrongful death; because it’s justified if the police reel “threatened” and Black is automatically threatening. Thankfully, we have videos of some of these encounters. Honest people are more aware of the problems, the racial prejudice; prejudiced people will always find a reason why murdering that black man or woman was justified.
Anyways, great writing 🤗
Delali, let me start by saying, one thank you for reading this post. I appreciate your time. Second, I appreciate the sharing of your thoughts on the subject. When you personally put yourself in the writing, it feels good to know that it resonated with others. This statement right here is very profound, “Honest people are more aware of the problems…” I agree completely! After becoming aware, we must all summon the courage to put a change in effect. That’s not easy for any of us, unless the person has absolutely nothing to lose. Thanks again!
I don’t know what brought me to your page… I honestly don’t remember the path. All I know is I am glad I came. This is captivating. I love the reference of: “No blood can be found above the doors to this place, our community, our home. Death pays a visit to each.” This was a powerful piece. Thank you for sharing.
Thiscagedbird – I appreciate the compliment! I am happy you came across my site. Please, come through as often as you can find pieces that speak to you! 😃
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