Dear Mr. Officer, My Rights Mean More Than Your Feelings

About a 1.5 months ago, I was driving home from New York. I pulled into a gas station to fill up and get a couple snacks. As I pulled out on the main street, I made a quick right. The way the intersection was set up, there was a traffic light but no “No turn on red” sign. I made the right and proceeded slowly down the side street about 100 feet towards a stop sign. Not even 10 seconds later, I saw a trooper’s lights flash and I pulled over.

I took my keys out of the ignition, switched my cell phone to a record setting, and place both on top of my car. My reasoning was I didn’t want to give him any reason to say I reached for anything inside my car. He took my information and went back to his car. After it came back clean, he asked how long I’d lived in Ashburn and why my car wasn’t registered in VA. This line of questioning was irrelevant to why he’d stopped me; which he didn’t say until about 15 minutes in that it was for running the red light and not wearing my seat belt. The former was flat out untrue. I explained to him that I was going to put on my seat belt at the stop sign. Despite this stop taking place halfway to the stop sign, he didn’t want to hear it. As he was writing me the ticket, he asked me why my phone and car keys were where they were. Without any type of indignation, I told him “I don’t want to get shot today, sir.” I meant that sincerely. From my heart.

I haven’t watched the dash-cam video of Sandra Bland’s unlawful arrest. I can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve read the full descriptions of what goes on in the video. The cop assaulted her with no question. I’ve gathered enough intelligence to be able to fill in the blanks. I can’t even address Bland’s death because so much went wrong prior to her being falsely imprisoned. It was gross misconduct the moment the officer decided to be antagonistic and condescending to Ms. Bland.

Cops are public servants. They’re entrusted by oath to maintain professionalism at all times. Working in law enforcement is about service, not flexing your status. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of people of color who have had encounters with cops that was anything but civil. I’ve been cursed at, slammed on the roof of a squad car, and even been detained. As a younger adult, I took the treatment because I didn’t know anything else. It was normal where I was from. Now? I know that cops work for us. They owe me respect. They owe me common courtesy.

In so many of these cases, the escalation only occurs once the cop feels he’s been disrespected. I understand that it’s human to want to be given respect. However, these men in blue are so fragile that they can’t ever take being challenged; especially when they know we’re well within our rights to refuse orders like search and seizure or being unlawfully detained.

I think back to the incident in McKinney. That cop told a group of minors to walk away and go home. He had no reason to put his hands on the 14 year old girl until “she got smart”. To be black and challenge a cop’s authority is to put your life at risk. While this is a country that praises the first amendment and the right to due process, that somehow doesn’t apply to everybody. We’re supposed to comply and be docile. We’re supposed to shrink ourselves as to not piss off the cops. Black people have to submit under the thumb of every cop’s ego just to make it home.

I’m sad that this happened to Sandra Bland. It breaks my heart that her life was snatched away because she was rightfully annoyed about a BS traffic stop. I think about how many black women instinctively tense up in fear when a cop pulls them over. I worry for some of my relatives. If I was married, I’d be nervous anytime my wife had to leave the house without me.

Despite the fact that cops are expected to turn the other cheek and be the bigger person, somehow black people are told to walk on egg shells. I find it disgusting at how, in so many of these videos, cops are verbally abusive and show little to no restraint. Protect and serve has become as antiquated as all men are created equal.

Sandra Bland stood up for herself. She was vocal about knowing her rights. However, I am so sorry that that cop forgot that exercising her rights superseded his weak ass feelings.

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