If you carry yourself the right way, you will not get in trouble. If you speak the right way, you will never get into an argument. If you educate yourself, you will not find yourself ignorant. If you wear the right clothes, speak eloquently, and obey all rules, you should have no troubles with the police. Police officers have a very hard job, and they have to make snap decisions that will ensure they will go home for the night. However, what happens when a person is stripped away of all these things that they wear to identify them and a police officer has to make a snap decision? Think of it as this way: take a black man who’s wearing a sweater that represents the college he graduated from, pants that show he an active member of his community, and a hat saying he has never gotten a ticket in his life. What if he were stripped of these things in his first encounter with police? If the police couldn’t see these things, what are they left with? Simply a Black man. That’s it.
A person can acquire all these things to make himself more agreeable to the rest of society, but if he is stripped of them, no one knows he was a Harvard professor like Henry Louis Gates Jr when he got into an argument with a police officer outside of his own home. Or like when the officer who shot Philando Castile didn’t know that he worked at a school serving lunch to the community’s kids. Or like Floyd Dent in Detroit, who an officer planted drugs on, but didn’t know he had never received any criminal offense. What it results in is the case of Jonathan Ferrel. He was in a car accident and pounding on doors all bloodied in the middle of the night. He was a bright and active former college student who needed help, but when police encountered him, all they saw was a black man because he had literally been stripped of his identity. He saw himself as a man in need, but the police saw him as a deranged Black man and shot him. He lost his life simply because he didn’t approach the police the way someone should after an accident.
How should you approach the police after an accident? No one knows, and yet people say if you had done this the right way, this wouldn’t have happened to you. We are so concerned about doing things the right way, when there is no right way to present yourself as a non-threat if the other party already perceives you as threatening. You can tell Black people to try just a little harder to not get shot, but that’s the same as telling women to try just a little harder to not get raped. We put the onus on the victims because we don’t want to be responsible for their tragedies. If you had only…I want to say we are responsible for these tragedies because we have accepted them as truths. Only when you acknowledge the situation for what it is and your part in it will the outcomes change.