As a black male in New York I have heard cautionary tales about white police officers and stories of racism and police brutality. In the past I was guilty of seeing all white police officers by what a few bad apples had done but that is no loner true today because of an experience that I recently had which opened my eyes and made me see people as individuals and not just their skin color.
It was later in the evening and I was driving home when my tire blew, leaving me stuck on the side of the busy road at night. I knew that I had to change the tire but this was something that I had never done before and I was unsure about where to start and hoping that one of the many cars driving by would stop and help me out. Car after car whizzed by but not one driver stopped, and most did not even slow down as they flew past me. I turned my emergency lights on to indicate that I was having an emergency but still not one person stopped to see if I needed any help.
I was outside of my vehicle and pondering what to do first in order to change my tie when I suddenly saw a police car pull up behind me and stop. As the white male officer exited his car I was instantly nervous and scared. Would he try to intimidate me by puling his gun and pointing it at me? Stories of black males being beaten and even killed over something as simple as a traffic stop went through my mind. I will admit that I was terrified, sweating and having to work hard to keep from shaking.
I am a law abiding citizen, an honest person, and an upstanding member of my community. Would this white officer only see the dark color of my skin instead of the real me, and instantly make the biased assumption that I was a danger? As the officer slowly walked towards me my apprehension grew and the knot in my stomach tightened even more.
“What seems to be the problem here sir?” The officer was cordial and polite and I was caught off guard. As I explained the situation with my flat tire and my inexperience in changing a flat the man actually smiled a little. That smile caused much of my fear and anxiety to dissolve because it was a genuine smile. The officer told me that he would be happy to help out and then he changed the flat for me. After this man finished fixing my car he shook my hand and told me to be careful out there before he walked back and climbed into his car.
Now every time I hear stories about how all police officers, especially those who are white, are bad I think about that incident a few weeks ago and I know that we are all people. The next time you come into contact with a police officer try being polite and respectful and you may be surprised by the reaction that you get. Police officers are human and every profession has a few bad apples but it is wrong to judge every officer for what others have done.
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