Tuesday, March 3, 2015

White Priviege Doesn't Exist in the Hood

A couple of years ago I was driving home from work on a Friday afternoon.  I was feeling really sad because my best friend of 18 years (more than half my life) had just been put to sleep and I couldn't be there because I had to work. I just wanted to go home, curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep.

I was two blocks away from my house when a police officer speeds around the corner behind my car with his lights on. I wanted to get out of his way because clearly he was after somebody.  The problem was, it was Friday afternoon and there was a line of traffic at the trap house.  I hurried to get past all the waiting customers so that the officer could pass but instead he stopped behind my car, got out and started yelling at me. I looked at him astonished with my already tear soaked face as he yells repeatedly, "What are you doing, what are you doing?" I explained that I was trying to get out of his way.  He starts telling me that I had scared the people trying to have a picnic and that I could have run over some kids. I've never been so confused in my life.  Did a police officer just refer to trap traffic as a picnic and the runners as innocent kids? I was so weak and bewildered by what was happening that I didn't even call him out. I wanted to tell him that I was pretty sure it was him they were scared of, but I was too weak to argue.

He proceeds to tell me that I ran two stop signs and I responded with "no-I absolutely did not."  I tried to explain that I turned down one street because I didn't feel like waiting behind the MARTA bus.  When I got to the first stop sign I could see the bus stopped at the top of the street to let people out. For a brief moment, I thought, I can make it. For fear of not making it, I decided to continue the back way home so I turned right. As I approached the next stop sign a gold car was approaching the opposite way.  I waited for them to go and then I turned left towards the trap.  That's when he pulls up behind me like a bat out of hell and I scurry to get out of his way. He didn't want to hear any of that and just continued to yell at me and the customer service representative in me kicked in. When somebody starts yelling at me, I apologize and try to take control of the conversation. When he told me that my apology was an admission of guilt I abruptly stopped talking. I handed him my DL and he asked me for my address. I gave it to him and pointed towards my house.  Then he asked for my zip code.  I said the one we are in right now. When he said Decatur 30032, I looked at him crazy and said, um, this is Atlanta, sir, 30316. He then asks if I have any drugs, weapons, or large sums of cash and acts like he's about to search my car.

He goes back to his police car and 5 mins later comes out screaming at me again saying, "I will hunt you down and take you out myself!"  I was so scared I didn't know what to do. I've had some pretty shitty encounters with the police in my life but never has my life been threatened. I was humiliated in front of my neighbors. Now they must think that I'm some kind of criminal. Then he hands me a ticket for reckless driving. I was so ready to get the hell away from him I just signed it and said, "Thank you, sir. Can I please go home now?"

When I get home, I curl up in the bed and cry for my lost puppy Zenta.  He was a good boy and lived a long and wonderful life.  After a good cry, the event that had just occurred started playing over and over in my head and I started to get very angry. I looked at the ticket and it was damn near illegible. I could barely read the officer's badge number and name, and I noticed that he listed my car as black.  My car is blue-not even a black-blue. I also noticed he was part of the K9 unit. That's when everything became very clear to me.

When I was a kid, I couldn't walk down the street without APD stopping me.  They would always say, "The only reason a white girl would be walking around down here is because she's a prostitute or looking for drugs." City government trucks would pull over and proposition me all the time because I guess they believed the same. Now that I'm grown, I think, what a shitty thing to do to a young lady. There was a cop that so resented me, on rainy days she would come down my street as I was walking my dog and splash me. I eventually got my revenge but for legal purposes, I will keep those details to myself. All and all, that was the extent of my problems with Atlanta Police Department and when it comes down to it, they were honest with me about why they were harassing me.

Here I am in the DeKalb County part of South Atlanta and it dawned on me. The only reason why a white woman in a decent car on a Friday afternoon would be driving though this neighborhood is to buy drugs. I see white people from all over the damn state on a Friday afternoon in my area and everybody knows what's up. The officer was convinced I had purchased drugs and was about to search my vehicle when he realized I really did live two blocks down the street. By then the trap was empty and he had wasted his time and lost his opportunity.

I went to court and plead 'Not Guilty.' They reset the court date for a month later. At the court, I tried to explain to the DA what happened.  He told me that I may want to consult with the public defender because the judge "doesn't take kindly to those types of allegations towards police officers" and I needed to be careful about what I say. I said, "I don't take kindly to being threatened by a police officer in my own neighborhood." I go to the public defender and he gives me a form to fill out.  I hand it back to him and he says, "you own your house?" I said, "yes, sir." He said that I didn't qualify for a public defender.  Did you know you have to QUALIFY for a public defender?  Who knew? I'm not a criminal, I certainly didn't.  Had I realized I needed a lawyer, I would have gotten one. I offered to pay the public defender and he told me it didn't work that way and wished me luck. After all that, and having to face the officer again I panicked and totally punked out. I had to pay $970 fine and my insurance went through the roof.

I was dead serious about filing a complaint but I don't live in the greatest of neighborhoods. If I file a complaint against an officer they won't come if I need help.  People are murdered here. Three days after that court date a police officer was shot and the fugitive was hiding in the woods next to my house. The swat team shuts down my neighborhood every once and a while. Now when the 911 operator asks if I would like to meet with the officer I say no but they are welcome to take a statement over the phone.

As you can see, I don't get special privileges as a white person in the hood.  In fact, I'm actually targeted because of my color. I'm not saying that "white privilege" doesn't exist.  Clearly I can just leave and be treated normally anywhere else...or can I. Next story will be about the time I called the police in Ellijay because I hit a stop sign in the middle of the night and AAA told me I had to call the police to be pulled out of the mud.  They basically arrested me for having Fulton county tags.  Clearly I'm a drug dealer from the big city. SMH

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