Updated: Jul 29, 2020
We were playing our ethnic music rather loudly as we walked behind a commercial area when a marked squad car creeped to a halt behind us and the officer inside rolled down his window. What we were not expecting was for him to turn on the sirens and stop. This chubby white man hopped out of the Enforcer and waddled towards us. I think he forgot his hairline in the car. He asked for our IDs before beginning to explain the situation. Sarah handed him a credit card with her name on it because she forgot her wallet. Ayo had his wallet out and in his hands but only handed the cop a student ID. When asked for something government issued, Ayo just said he had nothing on him. My Service Card was on the bottom of the pile.
Apparently we had been reported for peering into cars and testing door handles on Mamquam road. By, “we,” I mean the two black males in hoodies--myself and Ayo. Sarah was not mentioned in this “report” at all because it took 15-20 minutes and 3 more squad cars blocking the intersection for a female officer to appear (none of the male officers could search Sarah). The first officer told us the description of the perpetrators, “a... uhhh... someone in a yellow hoodie... and uhhh... someone in a white hoodie as well.” He seemed certain of himself and who am I to question the racial sensitivities of Squamish’s RCMP. After the yellow hoodie comment I had to turn away and look at the floor to stop myself from laughing because I was very aware of the absurd normality of this situation the police created for us.
Mr. Man had gotten to my ID. The two officers shared a look.
“Oh you’re from here?”
“Yep,” I replied with an annoyed and dismissive tone while adjusting my focus to his face.
You could hear the gears clicking in his head as he came to realize that not only was my address in Squamish, it was in that part of town. The part with the rich white people. Needless to say, they wrapped things up quickly from there and the 4 Enforcers sped off in the direction of my house. If only I could see them lift off the throttle to cruise past the largest, newest house on the block. I only got to feel smug for a few minutes before succumbing to a waterfall of tears.
What makes me cry in these situations is never my dealings with the police. In the moment, most of these experiences are tedious and even routine. It‘s the aftermath that hurts the most. This time it was the terrifying realization that my night could and likely would have ended dramatically worse had I been the one with a UVic ID. Us being university students was irrelevant to the cop, it was the house my father had purchased that spared me. Up until he saw my address, we fit the profile perfectly, not for any particular crime but for anything he felt like. I didn‘t even realize until weeks later that the mythical report placed us on a road we never walked.
There is a lingering feeling of inevitability to state sanctioned violence against Black people. I mean that on a very personal level. Every interaction with law enforcement is in some way coloured by the feeling that maybe today is my turn to be harassed or worse. I say that as a black man in the best possible position to avoid this particular brand of anti-black posturing.
I have a white name from my white dad. All the perks that having money apply to me yet that fear persists because I’ve had the first hand experiences with cops suspicious of my skin colour to reinforce that distress.
Many of you non-black people--and I do mean POCs as well--yelling “fuck the pigs” and throwing middle fingers up at squad cars do not have those immediate experiences to really back your actions. When I see all these stories and reposts from non-blacks, I see a handful of genuine people being drowned out by the sea of political hobbyists reciting buzz words they picked up from Instagram news. Really consider if you know enough about anti-black racism to be “raising awareness.” Before you talk to anyone or post anything about the issues plaguing black communities fact check yourself then go back and read some more.
To those of you spouting communist / socialist rhetoric, one of the most important components of far left political philosophy is an educated proletariat so make sure you educate yourself.
Ask yourselves if your political philosophies hold space for the complexities unique to the Black experience.
Ask yourselves if your support extends into the next news cycles. Ask yourselves if you know the resolutions of the last wave of high profile police sponsored murders.
Ask yourselves if you thought that this had stopped because you had stopped seeing it.
Ask yourselves difficult questions because these are difficult conversations that you should be consistently participating in regardless of what next week’s headlines are.