On a day known for individuals reaching higher herbal heights, walking through the Heights on a sunny afternoon turned dark in the matter of moments, at least in the metaphorical sense. By no stretch of the imagination am I someone who has racial blinders on, especially with the recent developments in the Trayvon Martin case. I have encountered the embarrassment and anger of racial profiling in the past, either driving, riding, or just surviving. With the three digits 4-2-0 as the central topic of the day, I didn’t imagine that I, Mr. Say No To Drugs, would be considered as a possible low-level drug dealer or user, no matter the locale. Just writing this at this dark hour brings forth feelings of unrest for a Black man proud of his heritage. Unfortunately, that sense of pride is slowly transforming into something different, something that I will not mention at the present moment. How did I arrive at this angered destination?My intended destination was the library, my place of solace where I’m able to focus my varied thoughts into a cohesive collection. I started my journey on foot, walking down a Northwest Baltimore side street that could have easily been utilized for an episode of The Wire. Anyone that knows my trekking patterns will see me with my laptop bag across my tired shoulders, carrying a laptop or the troubles of my non-insular world. Only a few feet removed from starting my travels, a black, late-model Chevy Impala with two plain-clothes officers slowly makes its way past me, with each of the officers and gentlemen watching my every move. It was very obvious that I had their attention after I stopped in front of a vacant house, placed my bag on the steps, unzipped the black bag, and placed my jacket inside. The unmarked auto stopped, and the two occupants that were supposedly protecting and serving must have sensed that I was serving something more potent. Fortunately (and also unfortunately in a twisted sense) that was not the case. The multi-racial tandem, one Black, one White, proceeded to walk my way. As a brother raised on the tenets of King, X, and the Panthers, I knew how to handle the situation in a calm, calculated manner, or at least I thought I knew. The questions started flying in my direction like a barrage of verbal bullets, meant to maim my Black manhood. Like Neo in The Matrix, I started dodging those bullets, but not before they started to sting and burn my psyche.
“What are you doing, taking pictures?” “No sir, I’m on my way to the library.” “What are you doing around here, you got drugs on you?” “No.” “What’s in that bag?” “My laptop and CD player and some CDs.” “Are you out here freeballin’?” “Whatever that is, I’m gonna say no.” “That’s not wearing any underwear.” “Oh.” “How old are you?” “42.” “You not working right, you been to Central Booking before right?” “I don’t have a record officer, you can check my info.” “So you sayin’ you don’t sell drugs or have a record?” “I don’t sell drugs, but I do feel that I’m being unfairly profiled man.” “So you telling us how to do our job? You’re sayin’ that I’m profiling you? I can make your life real difficult man. My writing is better than yours downtown.” “What?” “We can take you downtown right now because you’re in front of a vacant property and that’s trespassing.” “I just put my jacket in my bag and I’m headed to the library.” “I don’t care what you sayin’, you’re trespassing in front of this vacant. Take a walk and don’t say anything else or you’re headed downtown now.”
This police banter took place for about five minutes, but seemed like an eternity in my mind. I guess in 2012 a bald-headed Black male, wearing black eyeglasses, walking in a predominately Black neighborhood, warranted the attention of these vigilant characters driving around in a black Impala. I surmise that my non-threatening demeanor was a threat in some circles. I believe that I was profiled, and absolutely nothing will change that perception. The questioning unto itself is not the underlying issue; however, the notion that a detective with absolutely no justifiable cause for violating my space and rights, even for a shortened period of time, insinuated that he has the power to fabricate a police report to make my possible visit to Central Booking a rather eventful one. With the rear tag on the Impala bent to obscure the plate number, it would make perfect sense that these two individuals felt a sense of power and accomplishment. I say this because, at least for five minutes real-time and an eternity from my mental clock, I was just another nigger with the propensity for selling death to his own kind. That is the furthest thing from the truth, however. With two young Black men under my wing, I stress over and over the evils of the drug game. I don’t judge or berate those that have been, or are still involved, in the drug trade. No one knows truly someone else’s struggles or demons. We all have our own issues to contend with on a daily basis. What I do, though, is paint a vivid picture of the bottom line, that there is no victor with this game. Even with my constant conversations alluding to these notions, I feel a void and emptiness from my 4-20 episode. How apropo for this to transpire on a day devoted to billowy clouds of weed smoke, because now my perception is indeed cloudy. I won’t succumb to the pressures of the literal and metaphorical clouds, but my decision-making will forever be changed.
The sad thing about this whole wretched episode is that is occurs on a regular basis for far too many individuals who look like me, talk like me, dress like me, think like me. I’m not a stranger to this, but I don’t want to be visited by this “dark profile” any longer. Until prejudice by all people is eradicated, and until law enforcement enforces the law and not interrogate innocent citizens, we will continue to live in this “city of harm” and “state of emergency”. I don’t want to write about this topic again…but I think I will.