STUDENT EXPERIENCES WITH POLICE PROFILING: Regan Henderson

Regan Henderson

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Being pulled over doesn’t make me nervous. I know this statement may be shocking. As a Black woman in America, I should be wary of the possibility that a run-in with the police could lead to something terrible. However, I have never personally had a negative encounter with the police and do not feel scared because of a lack of experience. To many, though, even the thought is terrifying. Countless stories permeate the media about innocent kids in cars being shot for no reason. I feel like I should be scared of it, and I often question why I’m not. However, my parents have had many traumatizing experiences with the police. Even though I do not get scared when facing the police, listening to my parents’ stories and understanding my proximity to them does make me feel uneasy.

In 2007, my dad was pinned up against a wall as he was walking to his car after work. Apparently, somebody in the area had been robbed and described the robber as “a man that fit the description of my dad.” In the midst of the officer’s assault of my father, the man who had been robbed came to identify him. Above the deafening rustle of his body on the wall, my father heard the man who had been robbed say “What are you doing? I said he was wearing a hoodie and a hat.” My father was wearing a suit. After his mistake, the officer even went further to accuse my father that his car wasn’t his. He had absolutely no reason to believe that his car wasn’t his, other than the fact that he was a Black man with a nice car.

A similar event happened to my mother and my step-father as they were driving home from an event. On an empty road, an undercover cop car circled and stopped in front of their car to trap them. Two cops then swung their doors open and in a flash pointed guns in my mom and step dad’s faces. As soon as the cops saw saw them, however, they looked confused. The cops began cursing out of frustration when they realized they had stopped the wrong people. They said that my step-father and his car matched the description of somebody who had stolen a car. It’s destabilizing to think about what could have happened if they were wearing sweatpants instead of the suit and dress that they were wearing. What if my mom did something as simple as moved her hand too quickly and the cops opened fire? Would their lives be taken in an instant?

We hear so many cautionary tales in the news about police brutality and police stoppings gone wrong, but it feels more real when it happens to somebody close to you. It’s a lot more common than we think. As a community, we need to consciously address this fact. We should keep in mind the everyday struggle of a person of color with the threat of unwarranted police brutality, and make sure that our community can function as a safe haven from the hate in the world.