When I was a student at San Jose State University 10-plus years ago, I did a ride-along with the police department for a journalism class.
It was a Sunday evening and fairly uneventful. There were only a handful of calls, but I remember only one. I was in a patrol car with a white female officer who was working alone that night. A call came over the radio about a nearby convenience-store robbery and a description of the suspect. When we drove past a young, black man who matched the description, she stopped the car, got out, explained to him the situation, explained that she was handcuffing him for her safety, that he wasn’t under arrest. He was angry, but he cooperated. He was unarmed, did not have in his possession any of the items taken from the store, and was released.
I’ve thought about this several times in the past few days given recent events. I understood why the officer followed the steps she did, but I could also understand the young man’s anger. I’ve thought of many different ways this could have gone wrong. I wonder if he carried that moment with him afterward, if he is still angry.
I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be black in America. But I am not so naïve to believe anymore, as I did growing up, that America is a land of equal opportunity. I feel duped, in a way, reflecting on the America painted in my mind as a child.
I hope for my children, that the America – and the world – I once believed we were, can be reality. That we, as a human race, begin to treat each other as humans, as equals, as friends, respectful of each other’s differences.