We have a perception problem in AmericaChantelle Grady / August 26, 2015
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A few nights ago, I was leaving my Godparents’ house (we live on the same block). I am fortunate to have two sets of Godparents, and now that my parents have both “crossed over,” it’s nice to have people in my life who are a sort of extension.
It was quite late when I left, and their neighbor’s son had just arrived home. I’ve known him since he was a little boy, and he’s now in his early 20s. We spoke, and as I headed to my car, he asked: “Hey, were the police bothering you the other day?” I was a bit perplexed, and was about to answer, “no,” when I paused. We live in a relatively quiet community, but close to some trouble spots outside of the subdivision.
There was a recent incident when officers came around looking for someone specific, so I thought he might be thinking of that. Nope. He told me he saw me on a busy, main drag in our city. Ah, yes…the safety check. You see on this day a few weeks ago, I was trying to pick up a sick child for a friend. We were going to visit someone in the hospital as well. This car runs much smoother than my old one. Can’t feel the speed quite as much. I had accelerated to get around a stopped bus, and that’s when I saw the white SUVs. Yep, the PoPo on full-effect.
I looked at my speed and thought, “Oops.” I was already pulling over before she could get her lights on. I cleared an intersection, across from a busy gas station. Pulled out my license, rolled my window down just so, and had my hands on the wheel at 10 and 2. Yep.
Traffic Safety Check. Ok, got it. My driving record got me off with a warning: “You have a fantastic driving record, Ms. Grady.” Thank you officer, and I was on my way. What’s the point of all this, you ask? PERCEPTION my people.
Back to the top… My neighbor (a young African American male), asked me if the police were “bothering” me. In his life experience, at his age, and in his skin, the perception of the interaction with police is clearly negative. Now, everything should have its proper context. I picked up too much speed, after being cut-off by a stop sign-running fool, which led me trying to hustle around a city bus. I hadn’t decelerated enough to not get pulled over. Who knows if it was a monthly quota thing? I saw the same officer (who happens to be a White female with lovely chestnut hair), on the other side of town. Apparently the white SUVs mean traffic, while the black ones… My point again is perception.
Greensboro has always been a great barometer for what occurs, and how we’re responding nationwide. Just check our history, and you’ll see it. February 1, 1960, November 3, 1979, etc. What I’m saying is, people see the world a certain way, and it shapes them. Their perception becomes their reality. For my young neighbor, law enforcement is the bain and threat to his very existence. To others, that very same young man (a father of two little ones) is a potential menace to society.
Flipside, same coin. I want him, and ALL young people to know: #YourLifeMatters. Here’s the real deal, and THIS MATTERS: America, We Have A Perception Problem.
Chantelle Grady is a freelance journalist, who resides in Greensboro.