[Scissorheads, we have an exciting guest post from the ineffable Katie Schwartz! She’s the boss! — Tengrain]
The other day, I threw out my garbage in the alley, sans phone and braless- it was a quick chore. I saw two police SUVs and a motorcycle police officer. A young African American man was handcuffed, seated on the cement. We saw each other. I inched towards him while two officers hovered to reinforce their dominance over him and his place in their world. The officers’ actions further traumatized and humiliated him for being black. The closer I got, an officer peered at me. I said, “I’m not leaving until I know he’s safe.” The officer shrugged indifferently. If I was African American, I would’ve been forced to the ground and assaulted. With so many white domestic terrorists in this country, I’m not seen as a threat?
I continued edging towards the young man, forced to be silent, to wait, and hope that he would make it out alive. Watching him, all I could think was, every minute of his life is defined by the color of his skin, regardless of where he is or what he’s doing. I wondered if he ever felt peace or safe. Our eyes met. His were wide and fearful. I told him I was there for him and that I wouldn’t leave. My presence meant nothing, meaning, he didn’t know what I was willing to do, which makes sense. Surely, he’s acclimated to my skin tone briskly rushing past him. If I had walked away, I would’ve been complicit. I asked why he was handcuffed. They ignored me. As I got closer, a female officer took out her phone and told him to smile for the camera. Simultaneously the other officer ripped his mask off his face and removed the handcuffs. I was enraged. Frankly, right out the gate, I should’ve done more, forced my way between the officers to sit beside him. I regret not doing that.
Once he stood up, I made my way to his side. We talked. I asked him if he was okay. He blamed himself for all of it.
C: I bought a new car because it was a responsible decision.
K: You don’t have to explain your choices. You did nothing wrong.
C: I was sitting in my car clipping my nails.
K: Which you had every right to do. You did nothing wrong. This is not your fault
He’d been pulled over and handcuffed countless times. Watching him run down what happened in his head and the choices he could’ve made, as if they were his to make, was infuriating and heartbreaking. He was drenched in systemic racial trauma and abuse. I waited with him and gave him my number. We talked until we were comfortable parting ways.
The minute I walked into my place, I called the police. The dispatcher was as angry as I was and immediately transferred me to the captain.
Please note, I explained what happened during this conversation.
K: I’m not accusing your officers of racism, but the choices they made struck me as racially motivated.
Dick (annoyed): They have to take pictures of people when they suspect a car is stolen.
K: But the car wasn’t stolen. They took the bill of sale from him and left with it. I saw them return it later. That wouldn’t happen to a white person.
The captain refused to listen and hung up on me because he’s a racist cunt with an agenda; defend his fellow Aryans and get that bitch, me, off the phone. So, I emailed the chief of police and the mayor. If I don’t get a response from either of them by next week, I’m contacting city council. If they choose to ignore me, I will keep climbing until I reach the apex.
Growing up, my parents were social justice warriors. They made damn sure that we were exposed to racial injustice, antisemitism, and LGBTQ+ pride parades, for example. Our world wasn’t white-washed. We were the first family to move into a white Christian neighborhood for one year. Did you know that Jews have horns? I still can’t find mine. I was sent to a predominantly African American school for a year. During my tenure there, I felt different and uncomfortable. I am grateful for that experience. Still. It is only a microcosm of what it must be like to be black in America. Black Lives Matter is mandatory. African Americans in this country have never, not for a single day in their lives been treated equally.
I don’t want to be part of the problem or complicit, so when I leave the house, I will always wear a bra and sneakers, and have my phone. When I run into a situation like that again, I will do better.
“When ordinary people wake up, elites begin to tremble in their boots. They can’t get away with their abuse. They can’t get away with subjection. They can’t get away with subjugation. They can’t get away with exploitation. They can’t get away with domination. It takes courage for folk to stand up.” ― Dr. Cornel West