Apr 7, 2012

Am I Not Trayvon?

Just now, on my way to the store, a police officer in a squad car stopped me twice. I had flashbacks to my days as a B-Boy.

My former life as a B-Boy totally influences my reaction to being stopped by a cop. I'll share more on that experience later.

The police officer asked me if my name was Howard. I said, "No, my name is Allan." He then drove away. I was on the phone with my mother. I kept walking.

A few steps later, the cop actually pulled along side me and asked to see my ID. I gave it to him, he looked it over, gave it back and drove away.

I felt angry, concerned, and frustrated all at the same time.

Was he really looking for a Howard? If there is a Howard, do I fit his description? Or, was I being profiled?

What if he was profiling me and found me suspicious, what would have happened next? Once I got home my mind went to Trayvon Martin. 

I am not Trayvon.  I was not stopped by a vigilante with a concealed weapon. I reached the age of 44 and made my way back home. So, why does Trayvon come to my mind?

During the early 80s in Bushwick, Brooklyn, I was a b-boy. I was down with the crew Brooklyn Vandalizing Dudes aka BVD. I looked a lot like the homeboy with the red turtleneck.

I always had my Adidas laced up to match the Le Tigre shirt I was wearing that day. This was the look that adults said made you look like a titere, a hoodlum.

I would laugh at that impression. I knew I wasn't a hoodlum. I just had to rock a look that made me fit in. I liked my clothes and how I looked.

The older folks were whack and didn't get it. The titere look presented to the outside world, back then, was about fitting in with my peers and survival. It was there hang-up, not mine. 

The rules for young homeboys like myself were you always walked around not looking like a punk. You also knew what blocks you had to avoid because other crews "ran" that block.

You never showed fear, and even faked the funk to give the impression you were hard. It was required you had some sorta swagger. 

Another important rule is when the cops pulled you over, because you always "fit the description" of someone they were looking for, you kept it cool. In those days the 83rd Precinct  was corrupt and would play rough.

So, when I would get stopped, by the cops,  a cold feeling would wash over me. I knew to take my hands out my coat pocket, stand straight, and answer all questions. Once the encounter was all over I felt powerless and insulted.

I was a good kid, despite my 40s and blunts. I would promise myself that next time, I would give the cops a hard time. Yet, I never acted on that desire, and just submitted to the experience.

I was wise enough to know by prolonging the encounter, it would lead to some heavy experience. I made peace with submitting because it meant survival.

I wonder if Trayvon was pissed that here was a non-cop harassing him, when he encountered Zimmerman. I wonder if he thought, Shit! Now,  I have to take this bullshit from someone that isn't a cop.

I wonder if Zimmerman's fear was met by Trayvon's frustration. I would of had the same reaction of being messed with that Trayvon experienced. I would have been totally in the right to feel that way. 

Fuck you Zimmerman! You are not  a cop. And, the real authorities told you don't follow Trayvon. 

I would love to ask Trayvon if he shared my experiences. I would love to ask Trayvon if he ever felt angry, concerned, and frustrated all at the same time, as he moved among his world. I would love to hear what he would say, and how us grown folks can learn from him.

Sadly, we won't get those lessons from his mouth. He was stopped by a vigilante with a concealed weapon. A vigilante that worked from fear and a sense of powerlessness that made him want to give, what he considered suspicious looking, people a hard time.

It is still possible for Trayvon to speak to us, and for us to learn some lessons. I write this in the hope that Trayvon's short-cut-life gives us lessons that will keep us moving forward to a humanity that works for solutions of what ails us, based on love, rather than fear and prejudice.


Reneé said...

Rules for living if you're black or Hispanic, and now, poor white from certain neighborhoods in the big city. Don't ever come off as anything but docile to the police, especially in Philly. Philly cops are notorious for their over zealousness.

Junior said...

Cops all over the place are slowly losing their minds, which is strange as crime has been on the decline for 10 years and it's mostly because people are fatter and lazier. It has nothing to do with them. While I have never been harassed (except once when a cop stopped me while I was driving and realized I wasn't who he thought I was), I always look around the world in a way other (white) people often don't.

Mitchell is Moving said...

Growing up as a middle-class white kid in Brooklyn, I wasn't subjected to that kind of treatment. I can't imagine growing up facing that every day... or being an adult, like you, and still facing it. I hope you're right that people can learn lessons from Trayvon Martin. Too bad those lessons won't do him any good!