My life matters
J. Smith IV
July 16, 2016 at 3:42 a.m.
First, I've lived my life in such a way as to strive to earn the respect of law enforcement and/or individuals in some superior status, given their "station" in life: striving continually to do so all the more, because as an ethnic Black boy, I received "the talk" in 1979, as my family prepared me for the culture shock of relocating from Michigan to East Texas.
Second, I have no police record. I have lived my life in such a way as to avoid any confrontation whatsoever with police officers of any ethnicity. I have never been arrested. The only time I have seen a jail cell or penitentiary is when there for family visitation or former co-workers and students, unfortunately.
Third, given my formal education, I've often sought to command respect by speaking grammatically correct English as well as I possibly could, so as to not be taken for or written off as just another "dumb N****R" or otherwise unintelligent Negro, especially by police and other authority figures.
Ironically, my speech practices backfire when, rather than being respected for good communication skills, I am either ridiculed by my own ethnic people, through any variety of quips and slugs; ranging from resentment on account of my "over-analyzing", "going too deep", "taking too long" with no need for "all of that" or "Why didn't you just say that, then?"...or my personal favorite being: "I don't need all that 'extra'!"
Or, on the other hand, I am curiously perceived by my Caucasian cohorts as someone who "knows big words and likes to use them." Translation: an "uppity" negro with far more words than what they may be accustomed to hearing Black folks utilize, on any regular basis, except of course, for Obama! And, you already know how irritated they are to hear his speeches, no matter how eloquent and informed, don't we?
One reason I have taken to published writings is because people have absolutely no one else to blame if they stick around to read my intimations. You are free to read my experiences and ideas for as long or as short of a time that you have to ponder them but, know this:
I don't wake up each morning thinking, "Now then, let's seee...who can I impress today with my word choice or grammatically-correct English?" I am a product of my parent's teachings on the necessity of Black children getting their education! I'm also the product of a compulsory American Public School and post-secondary education beyond that.
Curious, that no one is either surprised or disgruntled with people who don't look like me when they employ grammatically correct English standards. And, for that matter, never have I heard someone compliment a well-educated White guy for his creative lexicon utility. I suppose that is either because it is expected and appropriate in a given work environment. Perhaps it is expected and assumed to be more normative for White people than for Black people to do so: lowered expectations, in effect. Whatever the case, I don't aspire to speaking "white." I aspire to speaking right!
Furthermore, I've never heard a fully-matured, ethnic White adult within a work environment compliment another White man (or woman's...) appropriate and effective use of language skills.
Because, as previously stated, it's expected.
As for me, I have worked very hard to relate to police officers and people in general so as to earn their respect as a competent communicator.
For Black males like me, it's not just about language. It's also a survival skill or tactic to win respect from the other. I didn't establish the rules of these awkward, double-standard race relations. I simply play the game because I must.
So then, before any should deign to instruct me or any other adult Black person on how best to appropriately interact with an officer of the law, don't! Just don't. It's condescending. It's paternalistic and it assumes that we (Black folks) must have surely provoked some harsh treatment from the officer, to have been rebuked with a taser, a billy club, a gun, mace or handcuffs.
Or, perhaps we just looked angry or "hostile" enough to be perceived as a threat.
My parents did their jobs. I am now an adult: one who is quickly pushing fifty years of age. I have a degree in Good Sense with a "Concentration" in how to appropriately address a police officer. Furthermore, many of the great men in my family are ex-military. I know right well what it is to demonstrate "respect for the rank, if not the person." And, as an educated Black man possessed of common sense and perhaps some wisdom too, I am not the only one. We are many.
But, more than anything else, as a Christ-follower, I am compelled to observe the laws of the land, to "give honor to whom honor is due" and to be subject to the ordained authorities upon this earth, whether those authorities be harsh or gentle with me personally. I am compelled to do so for my Lord's sake and because I am so inclined as to see most people as strangers yet to be friends. I have no ax to grind with any group or anyone who is open to fellowship with me.
Given that I am African-American, it should be readily understood that "black lives matter" to me personally. This only makes sense does it not, people??? And yet, all lives matter to me all the more, precisely because I am a lover of God and do desire to follow HIM in all my ways...or rather I should say, in all of HIS ways. Is this not the greatest commandment?....that we should "love one another?"
I live for the day that I may fully experience the pleasantries of Psalms 133:1-2, but on February 20, 2016 in Dallas at Dave &Busters, I was directed by a Dallas Police Officer to leave the building and come outside with him; otherwise, the officer stated (twice) that he would arrest me there on the spot and take me to the Dallas County Jail!
I was not permitted to inform my wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law what was happening to me. I had been playing games in the D&B parlor while the rest of my family were all seated within the restaurant being served. I heard my name called over the Dave & Busters intercom,which summoned me to the front desk, where I was instantly greeted by a Dave & Busters manager who said "my SUV was involved in an accident." Just as the manager said this, a Dallas Police Officer approached me.
I was accused of a hit and run accident by this Dallas Police Officer, I was forced to leave the inside of the Dave & Busters where four ethnic white adults were waiting for me to come outside in the parking lot next to their SUV. Apparently, these people had called the police to report that my own SUV had hit their SUV as I parked opposite them in the Dave Busters parking lot, in front of the building.
As I was forced to walk outside and surrender my personal identification and insurance to this angry posse, the Dallas Police Officer threatened to arrest me under the charge of "fleeing the scene of a hit and run accident", again. Within exactly five minutes of being confronted by the Dallas Police Officer, I was threatened with arrest exactly three times!
These four adults stood there talking to me as the officer was threatening to arrest me; so much so, that I could not understand and was confused. When I tried to ask who the owner of the vehicle was and how I could have possibly hit their vehicle, the Dallas Police Officer again commanded me to surrender my personal information to these people immediately or be arrested under the charge of "fleeing the scene of a hit and run."
Within the span of less than five minutes time from being first confronted by the Dallas Police Officer, I found myself nearly under arrest as the officer became disgruntled to a point of commanding me to place my arms behind my back,as he proceeded to arrest me. Also, a total of four Dallas Police Officer units had appeared on the scene of the Dave & Busters parking lot and many witnesses stood vigilantly watching as this scene played itself out.
As I felt the force of the Dallas Police Officer press my arms together to place his handcuffs on my wrist, he then asked me "Am I going to now surrender my personal information and insurance?".... to the posse of four, ethnic White adults who had called him to the Dave & Busters. In fear and resignation, I replied in the affirmative. I gave personal information to four adults whose word was taken at face value that I was guilty of an auto accident with their vehicle. My wife was summoned outside by a concerned onlooker who stopped to ask me if I "was okay?" She came outside to see what was happening to me and was livid. My wife saw me being mistreated and was in a state. I was hurt because this is a woman who is the most reserved of beings I have ever met. She is loathe to confrontation of most any sort but on that day, she became quite vocal in her displeasure of my mishandling by the police.
We had made the trek from Longview to Dallas to celebrate my wife's birthday that weekend. My wife only wanted one thing for her birthday: a little fun at Dave & Busters with her family that Saturday and I wanted for her to have that wish fulfilled.
Within a week or so of the so-called "hit and run", the adult posse of four, whose SUV I supposedly hit and damaged, attempted to file a claim against my auto insurance company.
When I am witness to the mistreatment of a Black male at the hands of an overbearing officer of the law, something akin to "Post-traumatic stress syndrome" is at work within me. Consequently, I am forced to relive the memory and emotions associated with my being detained by the Dallas Police Officer at Dave & Busters.
As a Christ-follower, this also means I must forgive the people who falsely accused me of damaging their SUV in the D&B parking lot, along with my forgiveness of the Dallas Police Officer who detained me under threat of arrest; my arms forced behind my back, in front of onlookers, my wife and four other Dallas Police Officers, all looking on as if I posed some imminent threat to anyone.
On that day, I was wearing a light pink polo-style short sleeve shirt, canvas Sperry Top sider shoes, pleated khaki walking shorts and drill mount glasses.
How much of a threat could I have possibly been to anyone?
My life matters.....enough to have shared it openly with you most sincerely, within this blog.