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Why Are Law Abiding Citizens Afraid of the Police?


A few weeks ago, a black woman was pulled over by a Louisiana policeman for driving under the speed limit. At first, she did not know what she was being pulled over for, and she became increasingly alarmed as the officer asked her to get out of the car. This story, however, does not follow the tragically typical narrative we’ve been hearing about far too often regarding the strife between black people and the police. The police officer calmly explained to the driver that he simply wanted to check on her to make sure she was not drowsy or intoxicated, since she was driving very slowly. The driver assured the policeman that she was fine and she remained unharmed. Shocked and relieved, the driver, Ayanna Reid Cruver, broke down in tears.

Cruver recently posted a video online detailing her experience with the officer. Her video went viral because of her emotional narrative of the encounter, which described her fear of facing the cop due to the concerns that people of color have about their safety while facing policemen.

In her video, Cruver says through tears that when the officer showed her kindness, “I just broke down crying and I told him ‘I was so scared.’” She then goes on to say, “But the positive spin is that he really was just a nice officer checking to see if I was okay.”

The video has since been viewed over 12 million times and has attracted a range of comments, mostly sympathetic. However, there are many who do not necessarily experience or even want to understand the plight of people of color in America. Their argument: if you comply with the police, you have nothing to fear. This is, of course, untrue, as we have seen in recent news countless cases in which unarmed black men and women were shot and killed by police officers. Their only crime? Driving while black.

The murder of Philando Castile has received a lot of media attention lately, as the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed him was recently found not guilty. In a video of the tragic events, Castile can clearly be heard telling the officer that he did have a firearm in his possession, but that he was just reaching for his wallet. The poorly trained officer, however, reacted out of fear and prejudice, and shot Castile in front of his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her little daughter.

Although Castile was only pulled over for a broken tail light, he was killed, raising the question – what can people of color possibly do to protect themselves? In the same video, Reynolds’s daughter, who cannot be more than five years old, can be heard saying, “Mommy please stop screaming ‘cause I don’t want you to get shooted.” The cycle of police brutality, unjust trials, and public outrage seems so familiar by now that many wonder if there will ever be a change.

We know that there are good police officers and bad police officers. However, that does not change the fact that the system is broken and undeniably rigged against black Americans. This is not just an isolated incident. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and many, many more whose names we cannot forget have fallen victim to police brutality, a product of fear and racism. Cruver’s final words in her video echo what many people of color know in this world today: “I shouldn’t have had to feel this scared.”

Featured Image by Fibonacci Blue on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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