One ordinary night in Orlando, I found myself driving down an unfamiliar road after picking up my niece. She had been visiting a friend’s and didn’t feel comfortable walking home alone as she didn’t live in the safest area. Following her directions, I pulled down a dark road with no street lights. As I made my way down the street, suddenly I saw headlights behind me coming up fast. Making note of this out loud, my niece said, “it’s the police.” “Stay calm, they’re going to stop you and see if you have anything on record so they can arrest you for something.” At the time, I really had not interacted much with the police, mostly watched them from afar. From a young age, my mother and sister warned me to never be confrontational with the police.
Within seconds the headlights were right up on my bumper, sirens sounding, and a searchlight beaming into my car. I pulled over, the cop came to the window stating that I ran a stop sign. I politely said I did not. He asked for my license, registration, proof of insurance my niece’s I.D. I told him she’s a minor and doesn’t have identification. Then he asked for her school I.D. I stated again, that she is a minor and her identification is not necessary. As he checked my record, niece mentioned that they do this a lot. Creating fake infractions to detain and arrest black men within the community. He returned and told me he wasn’t going to write me a ticket since I had a clean record.
It was this night I had first of many run-ins with police pulling me over and making up some law I had broken. As a black man that has worked hard to stay out of trouble, get an education and pursue his goals, I fear for my life every day from the men I pay to protect me. This past Saturday, I attended my first Black Lives Matter rally and felt strong. As I marched, as I chanted, as I saw my brothers and sister of all races and creeds walk beside me, I felt safe. Every day I fear of losing my mother, my father, my nieces and nephews because some cop felt threatened by the color of their skin.
As Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were added to the long list of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans senselessly murdered by the police, I find myself associating Black Lives Matter with hope. Hope that one day that my children and their children won’t personally know discrimination because of their skin. That one day, the only discrimination they would witness would be in their history books. Black Lives Matter represents equality for not just blacks but for all. Once we have created change for one oppressed group, the trickle effect begins and change becomes inevitable.