Barbie Jones, 32
I was driving my rental car. They were looking for a stolen vehicle; they didn’t run my plates; they didn’t ask me my name. They just saw it was the same—well, they thought it was the car that they were looking for. Immediately, they pulled my car over. They said they were looking for a stolen vehicle. They didn’t ask me my name or anything, they pulled the car over, they put guns to my face. They put me on the ground. I was, like, scared—you can see me on their dash cam puking and everything because I don’t know what’s going on. And then they told me to get in my car. Once they found out that they pulled over the wrong car, they told me to get in my car and go. They still never asked me my name. And then I sued.
Kerstin Arias, 24
When I was seventeen—my mom was very abusive, and I have a white mom. She was beating the crap out of me. All I wanted to do was leave the house and I kept trying to leave the situation, but she wouldn’t let me—she kept saying she was going to call me a runaway. So all I did was push her off me, and I tried to take off. She called the cops. I had a whole black eye, my glasses broke off my face, I had scratch marks all over my arm. When the cops got there, they didn’t even ask me the situation that happened. They didn’t ask if I was okay. They didn’t ask my side of the story. They just put me in handcuffs. And I spent 32 days in jail. At seventeen years old. And you know, that was the sucky part about it. When you have a crazy-ass white mom, who are they gonna believe? The white victim or the troublemaker, you know, teenage problem-child that’s of color.
Alsa Bruno, 30
The first time I can remember… I was three years old, and I remember looking out at the boys playing basketball right at the bottom of our driveway, and the police rolled up. And they invited the kids to play with them. They were like, “Oh, let’s do that.” And they suck. They, like, miss a shot and the kids started clowning them. And I mean, I’m three, so what I saw was just a missed shot—a point of fun and like some laughing, but that to me is a situation where we’re all in it together: “Ah, yep, I missed it. Ah, damn. All right, kids, see you later.”
And what happened was I guess they got offended—the police—and just beat the shit out of them. These are my neighbors. They were kids I knew, they played ball with my brothers, right? My brother had literally just come inside, one of my brothers, and literally just left the court. The court being our fucked up—like, our street was built on an incline, right? Yeah, when we played basketball, everything was a fadeaway [laughs]. Anyway, and yeah, they parked on our side of the street. And they started whaling on the kids, but they were doing it because they knew the kids weren’t gonna fight back but you can see them flexing and flexing. And they smacked the first kid—an open-palmed smack in the face. The other cop took somebody and slammed… I can’t forget all the red that exploded out of that face as he slammed it on the car, and I think they took two of them to jail—or something, took them away.
And for me, I mean, I had learned that the police were heroes, and I wanted to be one. There was a cop at my church. He was a—I forget his station, but he was pretty high up, and he was just, you know, a good guy, very straitlaced, and his daughter was fine. So I thought, why not be near that? Talk to his sexy daughter—I mean, I’m six, she was cute—and lo and behold, right? Like, I have to hold all these same realities at once. I have to believe that they were criminals, I had to pretend that to be an officer is to constantly find the bad guy, as opposed to constantly meet a quota or constantly have the power to enforce whatever the fuck I feel moment to moment.
Glen Ray, Sr., 68
I remember we were out playing baseball—right behind our house we had a baseball field. And my father came out and said, “Man, tell people don’t go up in Anniston because they just burned the bus.” [On the afternoon of May 14, 1961, a Greyhound bus carrying Black and white Freedom Riders was attacked by a mob of Klansmen who set the bus on fire, attempting to kill everyone inside. When later asked why none of his officers had intervened in the attack, which occurred a block from the police department, the police chief said they were busy celebrating Mother’s Day.]
But I come from a family of civil rights fighters. My mother right now is 95 years old and you would look at her and you would think she’s in her thirties. She’s still fighting.
Josie Stanfield, 28
My last relationship was very abusive. I worked, so I got a house, and he lived with me in my house—it was in my younger days, I’ve learned better, okay? But in one of our abusive moments, I called the police to ask for help, and to ask them to remove him from the home. I lived in northern Idaho at the time in a really, really small town. And I was shocked because the police actually ended up making me leave. I was confused. At the time his little sister, who is now like my little sister, had been also staying with us. And her and I had a conversation the following day. And she said, I just had to let you know that after you left, they were joking with him and saying that “we don’t like n*****s around here.” That hugely influenced me to stand up. Being in that situation, calling them with blood on my face, and getting kicked out of my own home with nowhere to go and then them joking with my abuser, saying that “we don’t like n*****s around here.”
Timothy Findley, 41
Being a Black man, we don’t necessarily have positive police experiences all the time. Now again, I’m not one that’s against police officers themselves. I’m against the police structure. I’m against the policing system. And the way that we police Black and brown people, but specifically Black people in this country, I’m against that. So when I say what I’m about to say, hopefully that’s the lens through which people will understand this. The majority of my life, I’ve been taught how to interact with police, and not simply interact but more so how to survive police. Because the thought is you can die in any encounter with police. And as we’ve seen through social media, as we’ve seen through videos, that’s a reality. I’ve told young men that “the system is not broken. The system is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Your job is to try to survive the situation.” So my history with police has been one that is, in my adult years, to hold accountable. But yes, I’ve had experiences with police, going back to my teenage years—being cuffed, being profiled. A lot of Black people have. “You fit the description”—I mean, all of that, that’s all happened to me. “Can you step out of the car? There was a car that looked like yours and robbed a local gas station a few minutes ago. We need to search the car.” I’ve had guns pulled on me. That’s sort of the day-to-day experience of Black men and women.
Koerri Washington, 32
My relationship with the police is like, I don’t know—they’re really nice to me now. I’ve had situations with police individually. I tell people all the time, when I was eighteen, at my place, I had a graduation party. Cops come. You know, I’m not 21 and people are drinking and stuff. So I don’t know what to do. I go to my bathroom—so I’m just sitting on my toilet. I was like, man, what am I gonna do? My brother was my roommate—I didn’t tell him that we were having a party or anything. I was young, I didn’t know what I was going to do. A cop comes in, and first thing he says: “What are you doing, flushing your crack?” And I’m like, “Whoa, all right. I don’t know why you would say that to me. But I’m literally just sitting here and not doing anything.” So it was the first time I had ever dealt with, I guess you could say, “subtle racism.” To me, it was racist as hell, honestly, because I had never seen crack before and, like, had a 3.8 GPA and scholarships and was a great person but, apparently, I’m a drug dealer.