Thursday, May 14, 2015

That Moment When You Get It

On warm, breezy nights, Hubby and I walk down to the beach to decompress from our day. Last night, before we even made it to the main drag, we heard a kerfuffle going on. We heard sirens, and then a police officer's voice coming over a loud speaker telling a man that the building was surrounded and he should get down on the ground. Before my husband and I could turn the corner to see the man on the ground, the officer started screaming at another man to come out with his hands up.

We rushed to get a good view of this local Law and Order unfolding in our tiny beach town. We walked to the balcony of a second floor restaurant that was still closed for the season and had ring side seats for (what we later learned was) a heroin dealer getting his come-uppance. I hate gang members and drug dealers. I have a history with them that will forever make me hate them and I think they all need to rot in jail. So watching this arrest started out exciting. There were 10 or 12 cops surrounding a hotel. Two looked to be SWAT and had their weapons drawn and focused on a 2nd floor hotel room door. The immediate area had been blocked off and the officer on the loud speaker was still calling for this man to come out with his hands up.

The man, dressed in boxers and a white wife-beater, very slowly appeared from the front door, with his hands raised as high in the air as he could get them. Every person watching was eying this man, wondering what he had done, waiting to see what the police would do. Everyone was just a little breathless with excitement. But as I watched this man, I began observing his body language. This man was terrified. More than terrified, this man was sure his life was about to end if he made even the slightest wrong move.

This black man was living out a scenario that happens every day in America and he couldn't say for certain that he would make it down those steps even if he did everything right. I could actually feel the terror emanating from him. This big, tattooed, tough black man was shaking in fear. It took him a good 5 minutes to come down a stair case consisting of about 15 steps, not because he was being lazy or belligerent, but because he didn't want to do anything that would give the cops a reason to pull that trigger.

I have to admit, I am the kind of person who feels like if you play with fire, then you should expect to get burned. I don't have sympathy for people who get arrested and claim the cuffs are too tight, or the officers were too rough. And this man is more than likely guilty. But some people had their cell phones out, recording the events. I am sure some were hoping a gun would go off and they would be able to sell their story. Others, more than likely, were trying to protect this man by recording things. Trying to make the officers pause before they made a rash decision.

The man made it down the steps and into police custody. He wasn't beaten up, yelled at or hurt. The conclusion was actually tame compared to the walk down the stairs. But I can't shake the primal fear this man was exuding. This wasn't a looter on tv, a rioter looking for sympathy. Nothing about him in that moment appeared violent or aggressive. This was a man with a deep-ingrained fear that he was more likely to be shot just because of his skin color.

I didn't get it before. I am pro-cop and support them all the way. But just like you have doctors and lawyers who make mistakes, you have rogue cops or cops with their own ingrained beliefs that they may not even know they have. This man thought he was going to die. He could not have held his arms up higher or walked more slowly or followed directions more precisely if he was a grunt in the army.

This man was black and thought he was going to be shot.

I get it now.

I really do.