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All it Takes is One Bad Day: A Refection on My personal Encounters With Cops

Updated on June 28, 2016
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Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Random Encounter

I was on my way to work today, when I felt my left rear tire give out. Unfortunately I was in the middle of my drive and now stuck on the thruway. Nothing new if you drive. You just get out and switch the tire or use instant tire repair foam to fill up the hole until you get some place safe.

Thing was, I didn’t have enough foam for the car, and the tire was rusted on pretty well that I could not kick it off. It was about this time that a police car appeared behind my car and asked if I was ok. I replied, “Yea”, and explained what happened. The cop then put some flares behind my car and called in a second cop, who got me help from a nearby gas station for free. I got the tire off, set my spare on the car and went about my way.

Good Guys and Bad Guys

While it was not a harrowing situation, it did give me pause about the relationship between Blacks and police as it exists today. Tension has always existed between Blacks and the authority figures we are told whose job is to protect us, long before the slew of shootings of Black males by cops that have happened this year.

Neither side trusts the other. Many urban communities feel that the police actively profile them and commit abuses regularly to its members. Many cops feel that they cannot do their job because they either are harassed by some communities members trying to catch them on video, the standard “no snitching” rule that exists where crimes cannot be reported to police, or that their own sacrifices they make are taken for granted.

For my part, I had both experiences with the law. While today, as well as on several other occasions, cops have been very helpful when I was in a jam or when someone was trying to get into my apartment at 2 am, I have also been profiled six times: one of those resulting in a gun being pulled on myself and a friend of mine when I was pulled over!

Sometimes all it takes is one or two bad experiences to affect how you see certain types of people. Or to quote the Joker from the graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke, “all it takes is one bad day”. These experiences have helped create a society that is very polarized, you are either for us or against us and there is no in-between. And often time whose side you take leads you into conflict with how you could do such a horrid thing, either being a racist, homophone, self-entitled, or looking for hand outs.

Living in the Grey

The thing is however that whether we like it or not, there is an in-between. Some people try to help others, or try to solve crime when called in. The scary part when dealing with either cops or hostile urban community members is what kind of person are you going to be dealing with? Is the cop pulling you over going to shot you in the back? Is the man walking behind you going to mug or go about his way?

The reality is that people exist all along this spectrum. A positive experience with a policeman does not negate the existence of a policeman with prejudice that shoots first and asks question later. A Black youth chasing you down to return dropped wallet, does not negate that another youth tried to harm you and steal your money. All of us have had one experience or another like this.

Whatever faults with the system and the work that needs to be done to improve it, it’s also important to remember not to generalize each other. If we do, we can turn would be allies to improve the system and communities, into enemies, thereby extending the tragedy.


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