As a resident of Phx, reading this post from @DrScottBowman hit close to home! Links added by Ms. Green!
I could be Trayvon: When I was in my twenties (and my older brother was in his thirties), we were driving from Las Vegas to Phoenix after attending my sister’s wedding. On the drive out from Phoenix, the bumper to my car unsuspectingly came off and (obviously) was not recovered. As we were nearing Kingman, Arizona, we were coming down a hill (in traffic) and the officer approaching us at the bottom of the hill in the opposite direction (who obviously couldn’t see my bumper) chose to turn around and pull us over – “mysteriously” choosing us from a handful of other cars. At the time, my brother and I were both graduates of Arizona State University, gainfully employed, and fulfilling the promise of the “American Dream” and the social promises associated with conformity. When he approached the car, he asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. My brother proceeded to ask him a question about why he chose to stop us in the flow of traffic. At that moment, in the middle of the desert, I believed that he and I were about to have a Trayvon moment (evidently, despite my knowledge of the criminal justice system, we were not allowed to ask questions). The officer prompted me to get out of the car and stand behind it, while ordering my brother to “sit in the front and face forward.” As is arguably the case with countless others that will post to this site, I was asked where I was coming from, where I was going, who’s car I was driving, why the bumper was missing, and other questions that did not pertain to anything related to his perception of my speeding. He also proceeded to lecture me about my brother’s actions during the initial part of the stop and how he was “doing me a favor” by not adding additional charges to my stop. As time passed with me standing in the back of the car and my brother facing forward, he began to turn around to check on my well-being. The first time, he stopped talking to me, looked at him and gestured to him to face forward like you would gesture to a well-trained dog. The second time, the officer proceeded to yell and him to “turn around and face forward” and that if he didn’t, he was going to arrest us – for what I have no idea. After what felt like a fifteen minute stop, he finally sent us on our way – no speeding ticket and a fix it ticket for the bumper that I was planning to replace as a sense of personal pride. I’m sure that, much like Trayvon, there is no more helpless feeling for an African American male than to interact with someone that believes every negative stereotype, holds every implicit association, and holds the power to “make everything better.” Probably much like others that have posted / will post, I found myself choosing from several interactions. I have had similar (although this was the most frightening) interactions from my high school years through my most recent years. Ironically, I currently hold a Ph.D. from Arizona State and I teach a course entitled “Race, Ethnicity and Crime” in the Criminal Justice Department at Texas State University. I get to tell stories like this to future officers and hope like hell that it makes a difference in the lives of others. @DrScottBowman #TrayvonMartin #Weareallinthistogether #icouldbetrayvon