I’ve been thinking a lot about Michael Bennett’s recent letter today. If you haven’t read it, here it is.
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) September 6, 2017
I don’t know what it is like to be a young black man in America, but I do know what it is like to have a gun pulled on you. It has happened to me three times.
Let me work backwards through my experience.
Third time: It was 12 years ago. I was driving eastbound on the I-90 bridge getting ready to roll into the tunnels. Right before I entered the first tunnel I had cut off another driver just enough and he was upset. He started flipping the bird and instead of apologizing with a wave, I slowed down to antagonize him. When we got to the end of the tunnel, he pulled up next to me and pointed a gun. I hit the brakes, and let him speed ahead. While it was upsetting, it was also clear that I was the antagonizer and I have tried to change my driving habits since.
Second time: I was a young high school kid heading down an Albuquerque street on the way to the store for my mom to get some tampons. Yep, it’s true. A guy cut me off. I pulled up next to him and asked him to roll down his window. I told him to pull over and I said, “you better have a gun.” I thought that was tough. When he got out of his pick-up truck he did have a gun. He showed me. My bravery led me to go speeding out of the Albertsons parking lot. I was shaken. But again, I started it.
First time: I was 15 years old and working at a TCBY yogurt shop in Albuquerque. I had secured jobs for my friend Brad and I for the Summer. Brad was a year older, but I was deemed the “PM Supervisor ” of our store. At $3.25 an hour, we were making bank. One night as we were riding home together, I realized I didn’t put the money in the safe. We turned around and headed back to the store. I put the money in the safe, but as we were headed home, a roadblock appeared. There was a helicopter in the sky, and their were police cars everywhere. We were told through bright flashing lights and a loud speaker to pull over, put our hands on the dash, and to not move. As we sat in the truck terrified, officers appeared on both sides of our white F-150 pick-up truck. We were told not to move or we would be shot. This is when many officers still carried shotguns by the center consoles of their cruisers. I had one pointed at point-blank range near the back of my head. I pee’d my pants. But I complied. I remembered my grandfather telling me to always comply.
We were removed from the truck, and we were allowed to tell our story. A security officer had seen us go into the yogurt shopt in the dead of night and thought we were robbing the store. He didn’t know I forget to move the money from the register to the safe and was returning to do so.
Our story checked out, we laughed with the officer’s and we were on our way. It was a nervous laughter and I had never been so scared in my life. But what my grandfather taught me worked as he said to comply and you will be OK.
Whenever I use to see a story where a person of color got shot, I figured it was because they didn’t comply like I did. But we now know that’s not always true. We have seen videos of black and brown men complying like I did, but they still end up getting shot. It doesn’t happen in many cases, but it does happen enough where we need to become more self aware about the biases that we all carry.
Police have the right to ask people to comply so they can go home at night. All of us have the right to go home at night, if we have done nothing wrong, and we comply.
My grandfather’s advice works for me, but it also has to work for black and brown young men.
See the trolls’ comments below.
I will see you on the radio at 3 p.m.