“Can you please step out of the car?”
Those words are one of the most frightening things to hear as a Black man living in the United States. I’m not sure how many times I have heard them, but my heart still skips a beat every time I do. I remember one instance vividly: I was coming back from Pennsylvania State University with my cousins. We had just finished making the four-hour trip from State College, Pa., to Brooklyn, N.Y.—Canarsie to be exact—when we decided to grab some Funfetti cake for my cousin Adetayo’s birthday. We picked up another member of our family and off to Key Foods we went. On the way back to Adetayo’s house, I made a turn at a green light. Suddenly, we saw flashing lights behind us as two undercover officers pulled us over.
I slowly rolled down the window after making sure that everyone’s hands were visible because that was not the day that I was going to die. I said to the officer in a calm manner, “Excuse me, can you explain why we got pulled over?” No answer. The officer then proceeded to ask for our IDs. Next, he asked: “Are there any weapons in the car.” “No,” I replied. “Can we check the car to make sure?” he asked. “Why?” I said to the officer. “We just went to the store to buy some Funfetti cake.” Again, no answer. We were then asked to come out of the car and so we did. Minutes later, after being patted down, the officer said, “All set.” We entered the car and then they drove away.
We knew why we were pulled over: four Black men in a BMW meant trouble to them. The reason I mention this story is because even though the Bloomberg era of stop-and-frisk is no longer in effect in New York City, racism and police brutality still exists and persists. During the first weekend of May, alarming videos were recorded of New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers assaulting members of the Black community while a few miles away, officers were seen giving face masks to…