The Presumption of Guilt

Last night, a young white Prince William County, VA police officer pulled me over as I pulled out of the parking lot of my local gym and cited me for failing to stop a red light. Mind you, I did no such thing, and my lady was with me as a witness to corroborate my account. Of course, though, when I attempted to assert the truth of the matter, much to his chagrin, he scoffed and said that if I wanted to dispute the citation I could show up in court.

In the past, when pulled over and cited for a violation, I’ve taken the ticket or warning in stride well aware that I was in the wrong, but last night, something rose up in me and said, “F*ck that!” I wasn’t going to admit to something that I didn’t do. Maybe my reaction was predicated on my memories of the countless instances of injustice in America or maybe I felt bullied by roving police men and women who have nothing better to do than harass taxpaying, stand-up citizens who do the right thing. Regardless of which applies, I’ve had my fill.

One of the questions the officer asked me as he visually inspected my car for what I presume to be drugs, guns, and white women was “Is this your car?” Not a “How’s it going?” or “Hey, folks”, but a presumption of guilt. Last night marks the second time I’ve been questioned by a cop in the state of Virginia at a traffic stop about car ownership, and I don’t know if it’s procedural questioning or simply racial profiling, but, at this point, my trust in law enforcement is nil. Can’t a thirty-six-year-old black man own and drive an Infiniti G37x?

Based on my experience and those of countless others in the news, I’m having a very difficult time accepting that the majority of white law enforcement officers are on duty to “protect and serve”, at least not people of color, because if they were, they would learn to better listen to and communicate with the entirety of people in the communities under their watch, not just people who look like them.

I’ve served this country with honor for a little over a decade and don’t expect anything extraordinary in return, but at the least, I expect encounters with police to not result in a tug of war between their word and mine. I know what I did and I also know what I did not.

I’m thinking NWA was right after all.