After hearing a white man shout, " F^$K you, N!@@#r! Suck my D(8K, Faggot!" at a black man on the street as I drove by, I was struck with this thought: I have lived in San Francisco for 15 years and I have never heard those words shouted.
Whether they were shouting at me or someone else, it was very disturbing. And I'm writing about it because I have to speak out when I hear these things. In the past, I shook it off and went on about my day, maybe even said some prayers for them. I think that’s the case with many of us when we hear these nasty things from other human beings.
Then I had another thought. Could this be how a man who has been caught lying, who associates with racists; brags about how he, as “a star,” can do whatever he wants to women, like "grab them by the p&$$y;” who buddies up to foreign leaders, who doesn’t respect my civil rights as an LGBTQ community member, gets elected to the highest office in America? I'm concerned that if we ignore these things, if we do not address this kind of abusive language, it will lessen us and desensitize us. Unfortunately, I was a victim, not a bystander, in another episode not even 24 hours later. On another San Francisco street.
I pull into a handicapped spot. (Yes, yes. I have a bad back. Sometimes I need to use my handicap privileges.) I see a construction sign slightly ahead of me but can’t make out what it says. It looks as though it is designating the spot I have parked in for construction. My car is still running, my best friend on speaker phone.
I notice in my side-view mirror a police officer on his bike and I hear his radio. Then come two more officers. Then another on foot. I say to my buddy on the phone, " Hey, man, something is up; give me second." I roll down the window and I ask the officer if something is wrong. "
He says," Shut off your car." I say, "What’s wrong? Are you pulling me over for something?" The officer says, " Let me see your ID." I hand him my driver license. My buddy on the phone is saying, " What the F&5K?! Why are they pulling you over? This is bullsh#t!"
I hear one of the bike officers say, “He doesn’t have a handicap license." The police officer at my window, now holding my ID, and calling it in, says, "You are pulled over because you don't have a handicap license.” I told him I do and point to a blue handicap card on the passenger seat. Oh snap was the look on his face.
Meanwhile, my buddy can't believe it’s happening and keeps repeating, "WTF? I can't believe this sh@t." At that point I told my friend, "Hey, man, I am pretty sure I encountered some Trumpers.” My friend is on the speakerphone, just cursing about the BS happening as they run my license for any warrants.
There’s a moment when the officer and I look each other dead-in-the-eye and for a very, VERY long moment this man holds my gaze. His subtext is not, “I wish I could take you out and buy you dinner.” His subtext is, “I wish I could take you OUT!
As they run my license and find nothing, I say, "I did not break any laws here. I have a placard." The officer holding my driver license says the placard was not hanging. I reply quickly, "I need time to hang it. It doesn't miraculously appear on the rear-view mirror when I park."
Another officer says, “You were on the phone while driving.” I say, “I was on speaker. I never had it in my hand. I have a stick shift and one hand needs to shift while the other is on the wheel, which means I would have to have the phone between my ear and my shoulder and it simply was not.”
It becomes clear they wanted to pin something – anything -- on me. So after everything checks out clean, I say to them, “You know that construction sign way over there? That’s what is what I was trying to read before you came up and stopped me. You should give me time to access it.”
The officer passes me back my ID and says, "Well, that’s what we need too. We need time to access. And those tinted windows in the back don't make it easy. Have a nice day".
This was pure, plain and simple profiling and a violation of my civil rights. I had not pulled into that handicapped spot for more than 20 seconds before 4 rude and unfriendly white police officers converged on me like rats on cheese!
I felt, seeing the looks on their faces, that they would not hesitate to do me harm. That was what I experienced. They weren’t there to help; they didn't ask me if I had car trouble or if I knew where I was parking. Heck, my car was still running.
They simply told me what to do. "Shut off the car."
"Let me see your ID.”
If I had been in a bad mood, I might have challenged them. I could easily have been another hashtag.
I don't like saying this but the racism and the profiling and the lack of respect from the police department towards any black or brown person in this country is disgusting. Then, to have a witness on the phone the entire time did not make it easier to digest the reality in this country. I wanted to shake it off. But I can't.
I went to eat and could barely digest my disappointment, anger and sadness. I left the restaurant and looked for those officers because I felt they did not even try to respect me. I had just finished acting in a play called, “Every 28 Hours.” It deals with this subject, the death of people of color at the hands of police in America.
I had become one of the characters I played the day before on stage. It was chilling. Yet this play gave me a gift. It gave me the gift to lift my voice and that is precisely what I intend to do.
I went to the nearest precinct to make a citizen's complaint. The officer was very nice and asked me to step outside. He joined me on the sidewalk and I told him what had happened. He said he was very sorry and he looked very sincere, if not near tears. He agreed that what I reported was not handled well. It wasn't long before I came across another policeman who said the same thing.
Today I plan on filing my citizen's complaint. I intend to find those officers who gave me nightmares last night and left me weeping in my girlfriend’s embrace. That should not have happened. I fought for this country in the U.S. Navy and gave 11 years of my life so that I could protect their freedom. One of them was very young, probably in elementary school when I served in the military. It hurts and it is a terrible thing to have to think that I fought to keep him safe so that he could later grow up to abuse his authority and encroach upon my civil rights. But now that my tears are dry and my breathing has steadied and my focus is clear, I say: Stand down racists, haters, misogynists, people who would attempt to wield their power against good, you just released Kraken!