posted by dj trishna
I’m so angry right now. It’s one of those nights where you’re so angry, you can’t sleep, no matter how hard you try to distract yourself. I didn’t even know I was this angry. I let myself cross off a few things from the old list of to-dos and felt at 5AM it was finally time to retire. I thought I exhausted myself so that I would be able to sleep.
Turns out my anger has other plans.
My anger wants to write.
Write about the racial profiling and police harassment I was the target of tonight. Surprise!
And it’s not even that that’s really bothering me. It’s that I didn’t think that my race was a factor in it. That’s what bugs me.
I assumed my activist history and involvement in G20 organizing were the grounds for their harassment.
Tonight I was pulled over by the cops.
On my bicycle.
When I was biking around a low-income neighbourhood of town.
Shocking, I know.
The officer was so freaking smug, believing himself to have caught me in the midst of doing so much wrong.
“Have you ever been in trouble with the police before?”
He asked me that about 4 different times before calling in my license and pulling up squat.
Before that happened though, he enjoyed lecturing me on speaking back and being rude after I had asserted my rights to him.
He was sittin pretty, waiting for the call to come back saying that I had a history or was involved in something scandalous.
Nope. Just ridin my bike around with my white male friend.
“Why didn’t you want to give me your I.D.?”
“Because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”
“And you weren’t. But how was I supposed to know that? What do you expect would happen if I let off every person who refused to give me I.D.? There’d be an awful lot of offenders out there wouldn’t there?”
“And what do you expect when you decide to pull over a woman of colour at night who isn’t violating any laws?”
Except that the last sentence was in my head, burning behind my tongue, fighting to make its way out.
I silenced myself. I silenced my anger.
And here I am up at 6 AM paying the price.
He didn’t choose to harass my friend, he didn’t even speak to him. He chose to harass me. He chose to threaten me, lie to me, and try to get me in trouble, he tried to make me take the bait, and I didn’t.
So why am I angry?
Because he still won. Because he thought he was doing me a favour by not giving me a ticket. Because he was able to feel comfortable in harassing me without just cause. Because he got away with doing it.
But mostly because I silenced myself in the face of his blatant racism.
And it’s because I couldn’t conceive of it in that way. As the sentenced formulated in my brain, I struggled with the thought of bringing the “race card” into play. The fact that I could even think of it like that signifies a huge problem, it’s called “internalized racism” and it apparently just doesn’t go away no matter how much theory you read, campaigns you organize or how deeply you identify with anti-racism (this isn’t to say we can’t deal with it, but that is another post in itself). It’s a reality that comes with being brown (read: non-white).
I reacted that way because I’ve internalized those global systems of oppression that tell us the officer was “just doing his job”. It’s true. He was. But I forgot momentarily that his job is to harass people of colour and those who occupy other-ed identities. His job is to police what is considered normal.
He said I was suspicious for being out so late at night in a “seedy neighbourhood”. Here, “out so late at night” can be substituted with “of colour” and “seedy” with “poor”.
I was unable to confront him because I was faced with confronting the global system of oppression in that moment.
But here and now, in my room breathing steadied and feet on ground, I recognize that his ultimate victory lies theoretically in quelling my resistance.
And while I feel violated, dehumanized as well as disgusted with the system and upset with myself, my resistance is far from being over.
If anything, he just reminds me why I need to do the work that I do.
See you in the streets, officer.