It was an average day at SLA, or so I thought…
“Why do you look so suspicious? Do you have anything on you?”
I had been standing by the pool, minding my own business, when suddenly I was being grilled by a police officer.
“I don’t have anything.”
“You look very suspicious though. What’s your name?’
“Where did you get that book bag from, Saamir?” He pointed to my military-style backpack.
“My brother is in the Army.”
“I forget, but he’s stationed in California.”
“He’s lucky. I got stationed in Arizona.”
“That sounds like it sucks…”
“Back to you, it looks like you’re hiding something.”
“I swear, I’m not hiding anything “ I laughed nervously. What was he trying to do, anyway?
“Well, then why were you so afraid of me?”
His question hit me like a truck. Why was I so afraid of this police officer?
I cursed why Officer Byrd let this random man through the front door, police officer or not. I couldn’t lie and say because he was a stranger, regular strangers didn’t make me become fear-stricken. It was because the recent police brutality in the news, the heat of the discussion, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement that made me become so fearful.
Something about the uniform, his badge, and just how successful he was about his questioning was scared me. Even though this police officer was a black man as well, I became afraid regardless of the understanding we could have for each other. His color faded to me because of the uniform.
Little did I know, I would see this police officer again. That Thursday, we were called in for a junior grade group meeting. We all crowded into the drama studio for an SLA alumni career fair. I couldn’t believe the Officer who harassed me was an SLA alum this entire time! Officer Wallace, AKA Doug Wallace, graduated from SLA in 2012.
Though his career choice isn’t one that interests me personally, I took something valuable from that grade group meeting. Wallace talked about his experiences on the force and in the army before that. He explained the hardest part of his job, about being able to relate to the community and having tension be risen from all of the events happening between minorities and police. He talked about wanting to make a difference in the community and in general.
I saw that there is still a person behind the badge, and I realized that seeing that person is something I should do more. Though I still wish people realized I was a person beyond my own skin tone, I was no better than them by automatically being afraid of a police officer. It’s amazing to see just how small events can be patched together to teach a wider lesson.