When I was sixteen, I stuffed myself in a car with 14 friends to go for ice cream. When we were stopped by the police, half of us had to get out just to roll down the window.
We were careless teenagers and we were afraid of authority but not enough to have decided against this stupid idea in the first place. The teen driver was a short, cute black girl like me and she was polite and calm, albeit scared to death because being stopped is anxiety-provoking. But that police officer never yelled at her — or us — and he didn’t hit anybody.
Five years later, I was stopped for alternately speeding up and slowing down every time I saw a "Moose Crossing" sign because I was terrified of hitting one. I was a new driver and from Boston, so what did I know? Someone reported me and a cop pulled me over. My story barely made sense really, but he didn’t even give me a warning. I’m sure he thought I was an idiot — but he didn't yell at me or hit me.
Over the years, I’ve been stopped at least two dozen times — mostly for speeding. Once, I was flying along, car dancing with a cop behind me for a good while before I realized it, and when he came over, smiling, he asked, “Good song?” That ticket was steep, but he didn't raise his voice – or his fist.
The majority of police officers are good people who do their jobs well. Social media affords us the opportunity to see the incompetence of some who bring shame to their profession; and some who should no longer be wearing a badge. That’s real.
Others work in underfunded arenas where professional development is one of the first expense items to go. And self-care isn’t a big part of the culture; even the police chief in Dallas said his cops didn't want to go for counseling. But running on adrenaline lasts only so long; even these fearless men and women need time to reflect and regroup or eventually they’ll crash. That’s also real.
When police who cross the line aren't punished it can feel like 400 years of oppression meant nothing. That’s definitely real. But every interaction I’ve had with a police officer has been positive. And I am a black woman. That too is real.
Our collective narrative is made up of multiple realities. Participants welcome.