They say your life should flash before your eyes when facing your imminent death, but it did not for me. Of all the things to think of, with a gun in your face, I was concerned with being late for work.
I was in the backseat of the cab on the way to supervise cashiers at my superstore. This was the same fifteen minute ride I took 4 days a week. The shortcut to the strip mall went through a very affluent neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood, some people did not think we (black people) belonged in. I looked at those magnificent homes wondering if I would buy my own one day. In the distance I saw a police car coming in our direction. I was used to this, the police always seemed to patrol nice neighborhoods. As the officer passed us, I noticed he looked in the backseat and made eye contact with me. Immediately, he spun around and his blinking lights lit up the cab. The driver looked back, saw the cruiser and pulled over.
“Was I speeding?” He asked.
“I don’t think so.” I replied
The next few minutes felt like an eternity. The officer walked over to the driver’s door, then looked back at me, opened MY door and told me to get out. I was shocked, but obliged.
“Is there something wrong, officer?” The driver asked.
“This doesn’t concern you Habib, shut up!” replied the officer angrily.
“What’s your name BLACK?”
“My name is Harvey officer, is there a problem?”
“You got any ID man?”
“Yes sir, right here.” I replied and reached towards my back pocket.
“HEY HEY HEY slow down!” surprised I turned to find a gun pointed at me. In the process of putting my hands up, I dropped my wallet.
“Pick up that wallet and get out your ID BLACK!” The officer screamed.
I did not know what to do. When he told me to get my Id, he pointed his gun at me. If I reach down for it, will he shoot me? Why does he keep calling me BLACK? What is going on? I Am going to be late for work.
The officer must have seen my fear and confusion. He pointed to my wallet, with his gun and motioned me to grab it. Never losing eye contact, I reached down and after searching, found my wallet. I stood up so slowly and tried to hand it to him.
“I don’t want your fucking wallet BLACK, get me that Id!”
I found my driver’s license and handed it to him. He snatched it out of my hand, but still had the gun pointed at me.
“Harvey Laguerre? What kind of name is that? You creole or something?”
“I’m Haitian sir.”
“Ok, well the reason I stopped you. There has been a report of burglaries in this neighborhood lately. You fit the description of the burglars. Where you going BLACK?”
“I am on my way to work, in a cab.”
“Where do you work BLACK?”
“Best Buy sir.” At this point, I am staring directly at the weapon that’s going to kill me.
“Ok, I need to check you out. I’m gonna have to put you in handcuffs, while I do. Turn around please, hands behind your back. You know the routine, right BLACK?”
“No sir, I have never been in handcuffs.”
“Yeah right bro.” He put his gun away, grabbed my wrists and put them on. Before I could turn around, he had his gun again, this time pointed at my temple.
“Have a seat on the ground now.” I obliged. I sat there and waited while this asshole sat in his car and ran my license. He took so long cause he only used 1 hand. The other hand was occupied.
“You ok Harvey?” the driver asked quietly. I lied and nodded yes. Eventually the officer came over, still pointing the gun at me, and told me to get up. I got up slowly and waited.
“Turn around, I’ll get these cuffs off of you, unless you know how to get out of them by yourself.” The sarcasm was apparent.
“No, sir I can’t.”
“Ok, turn around.” I saw him holster his weapon. He removed them and turned me back around. “You checked out, so you are free to go.” He headed back to his car.
I almost asked him every question imaginable:
There are people robbing homes in cabs?
They all look like me?
They were all wearing Best Buy shirts?
If you thought I was robbing houses, why didn’t you check the car?
WHY THE FUCK DO YOU KEEP CALLING ME BLACK?
I didn’t. I just wanted to get away. Away from the gun, the neighborhood, everything. I got back in the car. The officer started walking over, what did I do now?
“Here’s your license BLACK. Have a good day at work now.” I took it and turned away.
The officer left and then the driver looked back at me, “man are you ok? You want me to take you back home?” I should have gone home, but I told him to drive me to work. I have no idea why.
Shame? Embarrassment? Maybe I wanted to feel normal.
I walked in late and no one said a word.
No one saw me barely make it to the employee bathroom.
No one walked into the employee restroom for the 10 minutes I cried uncontrollably.
No one commented on the dirt on my pants from sitting on that dirty pavement.
No one comforted me. I suffered in silence. I was one of the lucky ones.