In May 2017 I wrote about this topic, which was then entitled "Police Brutality and Hypervigilance." The topic came about due to the many police killings that were taking place at the time. Sadly, I was inspired to write about part two of today's topic for nearly the same reasons. A few weeks ago, my husband was helping me get the baby in the car. I threw my wallet on the back seat and proceeded to get in the drivers seat. My husband was clearly bothered, because this is what he said:
"You just leave your wallet in the back seat like that?" My husband asked me.
"Uh yeah, why?" I asked very puzzled by his question.
"What if you get pulled over, how are you going to show your ID. The police are go be like 'what are you reaching for'. . ."
It was in that moment that I realized my husband was just as worried about my safety with regards to police brutality, as I was about his safety. It doesn't matter that I am a woman, what matters is that I am a Black woman, which increases my risk of being profiled by the police. Every day that my husband leaves, there is a part of me that is afraid that he will be stopped by the police for no apparent reason. And no, this isn't my anxiety speaking for those wondering. THIS is my reality. Because as much as we try to avoid it, and as much as I don't want to talk about it, Black people are profiled and killed by the police every day.
My husbands response was a clear indication that now days, it doesn't matter if you are a man, woman, or child. Being Black in America makes you subject to being profiled, harassed, and sadly lynched by the police. This is a tough pill to swallow because it places us as Black folks in a state of fear and hyperarousal.
Let me just paint the picture for you a bit more. If you read my newsletter on this topic two years ago, you remember me explaining the symptoms of hypervigilance in regards to police brutality. I described my symptoms as "an internal feeling of rebellion and anger whenever I see a cop, refusing to lower my music and not diverting eye contact when they look at me." Well now that I am a mother, my attitude has definitely changed. My feeling of fear when a cop pulls up behind me has increased, because I don't want anything to happen to me, especially in front of my daughter. This feeling began increasing when I was pregnant. I will never forget a feeling of pure fear I had when I helped my neighbor one day.
She texted me to let me know that her home alarm had went off and the police were on their way to her home. She asked if I saw anything suspicious, and if I could let the police know that she wanted her home and the perimeter checked. I told her I would help, but I remember a feeling fear rushing up my spine when I went outside and saw the police officer approach my neighbors home. I made sure to stay on my porch and tell the officer I was a neighbor. I was trying to make it clear that I was not a threat and had nothing to do with the alarm going off. But honestly, I knew that may not matter or make a difference. When I realized the cop was Black, I had a moment of relief. Why? Because although there are cases where a Black cop (or cop of color) has wrongfully killed a Black person, Black people are much less likely to be killed by police officers of color. So what's my point? As a people, African-Americans are continuing to struggle with police brutality and the hypervigilance we experience because of this brutality. There are two reasons that I feel it is important to continue bringing awareness to this issue and to continue writing about it.
#1 - Inability to heal
Since writing that newsletter about two and a half years ago, I have also written about two very serious cases of police brutality. One being Stevante Clark who sadly was killed by police, and the other being about the two Black men who were wrongfully arrested in a Starbucks (a company whom I still proudly do not support in any way). I want you to keep in mind that although I only wrote about two cases, there are several instances of police brutality that have taken place since then. One being very recent, with Atatiana Koquice Jefferson being killed in her home by a police officer. These things continue to happen to our community, making it hard for us to heal and reduce our hypervigilance with the police. If someone continues to experience trauma, directly or indirectly, it is to be expected that that person will have a traumatic response when encountered with the trigger. Keep this in mind when Black people express our mistrust and fear of the police.
#2 - Awareness is important
Although it may be hard to read these things, see these things on the news, or hear about these things in passing conversations; awareness about police brutality is important. Without awareness and continued vocalization of the cruelty of the police, the requirement for police officers to wear body cams may not have come to pass. And although not all police stations utilize body cams, the ones that do MIGHT be held more accountable. No, it is not a guarantee that things will change, but it is a step in the right direction. If we continue to be vocal about how police brutality is a form of modern day lynching, the bad cops (because not all cops are bad) will hopefully be held accountable for their actions. We can see our vocalizations making a bit of a difference with this most recent unfortunate incident. The cop who killed the woman in her home has been charged with murder, which is much different than what has happened in the past. The question now is: how much time will this cop serve for killing this woman? We have seen time and time again, white cops getting barely sentenced for killing Black people. This also has been demonstrated recently. We all remember the killing of a Black man in his apartment last year. The white cop who killed him was recently sentenced to only 10 years in prison. That not only is a slap in the face to us in the Black community, but also a telltale sign that we are still experiencing modern day Jim Crow. Until November. . .