“Get out of the fucking car,” I heard someone yell. I dashed to my apartment window, looked down and saw a cop aiming his gun at a car. Slowly, hands trembling above his head, a Black man stepped out and kneeled on the road. Is he going to kill him? I wondered. If he so much as twitches, the cop will blast his brains out.
As the afternoon mist thickened into rain, I saw the officer blinking droplets from his eyes. His face was a knot of rage and fear. Fortunately, the young man being arrested didn’t twitch as he was handcuffed. After they left and my panic ebbed, I knew it wouldn’t be long until someone somewhere was blown into oblivion by the police.
This wasn’t a knee-jerk anti-authority reaction, but a heavy feeling based on history. Months later I read of the NYPD killings of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham and 68-year-old Vietnam veteran Kenneth Chamberlain. They joined Duane Brown, Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury, Patrick Dorismond, Michael Stewart and others on the growing roster of Black men killed by the police.
Racism among America’s police forces is linked to their role as keepers of the status quo in an unequal society. They enforce laws written by politicians on behalf of the wealthy — laws that end up trapping poor and working-class people in desperate lives. Immigrants and racial and sexual minorities are seen as threats to the social order. When we protest the law and “occupy” a space, we are beaten and arrested. When we commit a crime to “get some,” we are beaten and arrested. And when we do neither, we’re busted to make a cop’s stop-and-frisk quota.