People around the globe marched over the past week to stand up against unnecessary violence against people of color by police.
It seems like people think the protests going on over George Floyd’s death are all about black lives. While, yes, that is the primary drive behind them, those aren’t the only lives affected by these incidents.
First, let’s be clear, Floyd’s cause of death was strangulation after an officer knelt on his neck for over 8 minutes while Floyd wasn’t resisting, based on the independent autopsy and video of the event.
That officer is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three officers with him, who he was reportedly training, are charged with aiding and abetting on both charges. All have been fired.
This is a clear incident of misconduct and is being taken more seriously than countless other incidents. These include Philando Castile who was shot by an officer while reaching for his license in 2016; Charles Kinsley who was a mental health therapist outside with a patient and was shot while laying on his back with his hands in the air in 2016; and Stephon Clark in March 2018 who was shot in his grandparent’s backyard after a cell phone was confused for a gun.
I haven’t lived the same experiences as people of color. I don’t know what it’s like. But I want to tell a story that took place a few months after Clark’s death of a way these issues impact all of us.
My best friend while in college is black and disabled, and they don’t drive. When they moved off campus, they mostly took the bus places, but if they needed to be on campus later than the bus ran, I would take them home.
One night, we were leaving at about 10 p.m. after I finished work.
We walked to the parking lot where my car was and it was the only one there besides a cruiser for university police. I didn’t think too much of it. We got in the car and I started heading out of the parking lot.
The cruiser started following behind us. We both noticed.
I thought, “Oh, maybe the officer needs to get somewhere, but it’s not an emergency so they’re not using a siren.”
I pulled over to the side so they had plenty of space to go around me and stopped.
Looking back, that may have been suspicious, but I also didn’t want them behind me. Not because I would do anything wrong, but because I felt like they were looking for me to and my main thought in the moment was “I can’t get pulled over with my friend in the car.”
The officer stopped behind us and didn’t get out of the cruiser. They just sat there. After a few minutes, I figured out they weren’t just leaving, they were following us.
I started going again. I just wanted to get my friend home and go to bed.
Now, I try to be a good driver. We all have bad moments, but I try to be careful.
However, there is a different level of alert when there’s a police officer near you. I think that’s a common thing.
So, I’m being extra careful driving through the empty college campus to leave and the whole time the officer is behind me.
My college campus was a rectangle with a road on each side and university police shares jurisdiction on those roads.
That officer followed us until I turned onto the street my friend’s apartment was on, which was leaving their jurisdiction.
Both of us felt more relaxed after that.
Now, I don’t know what was really going on here. Maybe the officer saw two 20-year-olds leaving campus late at night and wanted to make sure we got home safe. Or maybe they thought we were heading to a party where there would be underage drinking. Maybe it had nothing to do with my friend’s race.
But I don’t know that for sure.
The loss of life with incidents like Floyd’s death is the main problem here. Those incidents also have a ripple effect and the concern I just described during those moments is a very small ripple.
Police officers do right things every day and around the nation we’ve seen officers march with protestors agreeing that things need to change. Hopefully, those marches turn into constructive conversations.
I’m tired of hearing that it’s a couple bad apples causing these, because while I would like to believe that’s true, the full proverb is “one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.”