"What is that, a parachute?" Officer Drake asked.
Confused looks from the patrons.
"The sole accomplishment of that guy's life is buying a pair of underwear."
The cashier mumbled something about kids these days.
I thought about this interaction the whole day after it happened. I thought about Officer Drake's mindset. I thought about his service weapon and the three clips on his belt as if he was prepared for a fight against ISIS. But, I also thought about his reality and how saying such a thing is even thinkable, much less appropriate for a public servant with a small arsenal at his disposal. I wished I had confronted him and I fantasized about what I would have said.
Instead, I filed a complaint. I was told that I would speak with his superior on two different occasions and have never been called by an officer to express my opinion that this is more than just a bad joke. It is about dehumanization.
My wife and I just moved to East Lake, a community under threat of gentrification, which may make us part of the problem. But, you can look at our Nextdoor and see white folks complaining about suspicious characters who are almost always black and gunfire in what seems like a situation of deep fear of supposedly dangerous black people, especially black men. As white people move in, the danger for black folks ratchets up and let me explain why.
Maybe nothing can be done about white folks fear and suspicion of black people, but the existence of officers like Officer Drake is the ingredient in the neighborhood social milieu that turns white fear into life threatening danger. Drake has already dehumanized a young black man, probably one of my neighbors, by assuming basically that he has no accomplishments based solely on the way he's dressed. What happens when one of my fearful white neighbors call the police on my friend on the hoverboard? What happens if the interaction between Officer Drake and my friend on the hoverboard becomes tense, when Officer Drake has dehumanizing thoughts bouncing around in his head? Too often, this situation leads to the death of my friend on the hoverboard.
My wife and I sit in our porch swing every single day and young black men walk down our street constantly. People in this city are always talking about neighborliness as some sort of social solution to racial fear, yet whites rarely think about the incredible pressure of white fear and police incompetence on these very black men who are our neighbors. There is no place for Officer Drake or any others like him in our community and while I don't want him to be fired, I do want him off our streets. My friend on the hoverboard's life depends on it.