I left later than I should have. I was jogging for the bus and had to stop fast because a police car came barreling, silently, through the alley. I almost fell forward, onto the card, because I lost my balance. I looked the officer in the eye as I tried to right myself. He looked both irritated and stunned that I was there, that he’d almost hit me. And then he sped off. I stood there at least a full minute before I realized I needed to fast walk the remaining block and a half to the bus. Multiple other cars passed me. I never jogged again–I didn’t dare–but I did make the bus. The whole ride, I spent wondering about the person the police were trying to find/catch. I’ll probably never know, unless whatever that person did becomes newsworthy.
I also wondered why I refused to run again, not even jog. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Surely, dressed in a ZARA trench I wouldn’t be seen as questionable. But what if someone who had done something wrong was nearby? Would I be caught in the crossfire? Would the police assume I had something to do with whatever was happening? Was I even “safe” once on the bus?
He shoved the cop’s shoulders with both hands. The cop put his right hand and arm out to push the man backward. He did not reach for his gun. Another officer stepped between them. That officer put both hands on the guy’s shoulders, backed him up, nodding, saying whatever it is one says to someone in that situation, probably thinking diffuse, diffuse, back up, back up. That cop looks back at the other, does a hand/head gesture of calm/simmer down, but then another car pulled up, an officer jumped out, right hand on gun, pointing to folks to back up, yelling something I couldn’t hear. As he ran, he unhooked something on his pants/the gun (what’s there? A snap)? I don’t know.
I looked away.
As others outside made a circle around the cops and dude, and riders on the bus rushed to push record buttons on their phones, I turned my head. I looked away. If something unfortunate would have happened, I would have been on the bus that passed by, but I wouldn’t have been a witness to that precise moment. Who do I think I am to have turned my head? How dare I? With what I know about police and Black people?
Oh, I berated myself the rest of the way home: 26 minutes, 12 seconds.
I read this article earlier today. I don’t know what possessed me to read it at work. I knew from the title it’d likely gut me. Several hours later, I am still affected, searching for answers, wondering, wishing, praying, please spare us. Maybe it’s because Tyshaun is my son’s age. Maybe it’s because I’m a bleeding heart empath who should hide from others’ reality better. Understand, though; we don’t live “near” the neighborhood where this happened. It’s close enough by car, but it’s not our lived experience. Understand again, though, we aren’t that far removed.
I wonder, often, about how I grew up, how we went outside during the summer on bikes and traversed the neighborhood. Clearly, Tyshaun can’t do that. There aren’t many kids in our neighborhood, so any friends our kids have have come from school. I wonder about the kids at my son’s school who live the bullet-riddled life of Tyshaun. I wonder about THEIR stories, the similarities to Tyshaun, the differences. Admittedly, I worry about how their lives, when they talk about their experiences (which of course they do; they’re 7) seep into my son’s head. He brings home new words and phrases. Understandable. He brings home questions. Fine. He brings home entire graphic stories of others’ home lives and interactions with police and it stops me. Is he telling them that their experience is not his? How is that differentiation dealt with on the playground?
Oddly (or, not really), I don’t have a real closing for this. Just things that happened today that are weighing on me, making me think about how none of us are that far removed from the other. I may not have daily interactions with police. I may not be shot at. I may not live in a public housing complex. My husband and I are still together. Neither of us is in jail. But if I drive just 20 minutes away, I’m in the thick of most of these things being the opposite. But if you come inside, you see we may own a home, but paying the mortgage on time is a hell of a struggle. We may have a working car, but keeping it running is a struggle. Student loans are a struggle that I don’t want to pass on to my children. Will children in Tyshaun’s neighborhood make it to college age?
Right now, there is nothing heavier on my heart and mind than wishing I had a way to lessen my children’s, Tyshaun’s, and other children’s future struggles.