I CAN'T BREATHE
by RW Anton
"Stop right there!"
No, not again. I can't keep going through this every other evening. I'm on my way home from work, just minding my business, and they come after me every time. Why does it have to be like this? What have I done in this life to keep them riding me like I'm some sort of common criminal? I look around to see if there are others nearby, but it's just as dark and deserted as any other Harlem street after all the shops are closed.
"Let me see some ID."
My blood is beginning to boil like a pot of hot grits on too high heat. I know I should try to stay calm, but the pop pop popping of every blood vessel in my body is calling out for me to scream, shout, let it all out. I'm so tired of this. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I'm on the edge of just...No.
No! I have seen too many videos of too many cops shooting too many innocent victims for simply standing up for their rights. What will he do to me if I start yelling and screaming about how unfair this is? I haven't done anything! I am just trying to go home after a long day at work. I work hard! I work long hours! I work for little better than minimum wage! I don't deserve this type of treatment.
"Did you hear me? Where is your ID?"
"Why?" I say, my throat as dry as a matza cracker. " What do you need to see my ID for, what have I done? Have I broken any laws?" My heart is racing, fit to be tied, right out of my chest. Come on, Tam, just show the guy some ID, my head tells me, but my heart isn't in it. I want to resist. I don't want them to keep treating me like a second class... I would say citizen, but I don't think this is how a citizen of the United States of America should be treated. "What have I done, and why are you stopping me? I know my rights."
"Oh! We've got a smart one, do we? You can either show me some ID right here, or we can take you down to the station until we identify you. You fit the exact description of a perp we're looking for in a robbery in the neighborhood."
I know he's lying. The only "description" I fit is the fact that I'm a black male in a black neighborhood. Most people don't even call the cops around these streets. More often than not, they end up shooting the wrong person; sometimes, the person actually calling for help. I know he's lying, but what can I do about it? He can say whatever he likes, and the law will back him up. Their Laws were made to keep a foot on the necks of the poor and the blacks and all the "others" that threaten their fragile sense of superiority.
"Do you understand English, boy? I want to see some ID, and I want to see it right now," he says as he puts his hand on the gun holstered on his right hip.
"I refuse to be harassed like this. I'm just walking home from work. If you want to call my employer, I will give you his number; but I'm well within my rights. You cannot stop me without probable cause." It sounded like I was confident, I think; but my hands were shaking, and I swear my voice cracked more than once. "Do what you want, but I'm taking law classes over at Burisma College, and this is unacceptable!"
"Is it unacceptable? Well, why didn't you say that in the first place," he says - his voice dripping with sarcasm. "You sure seem like an upstanding citizen. Excuse me for presuming to think you could be our robbery suspect, sir. You are free to go."
I was so surprised that I barely thanked the officer; I just wanted to get out of there.
As I turned to walk away, I felt a pain in the back of my head; as I tried to raise my hands to the offending spot, hands grabbed my wrists and pulled them behind my back. He put me in handcuffs and then proceeded to go through my pockets.
"You just keep your mouth shut, you uppity nigger. When I ask you for something, you do as I say. I could shoot you right now, and no one would care. It's not smart to try and grab for a police officer's gun. Don't you know that?"
"Fuck you, you fucking..." I tried to say, but he had pushed my face down onto the pavement and kicked me in the mouth. The warm smell of blood filled my nostrils, and I tasted...red...on my tongue. I don't know why I thought of red, but it didn't taste like any food I could remember eating. It's how I imagine the color red would taste: thick, slow, heavy. It started to choke me as it ran down the back of my throat. I gagged and convulsed and tried to spit it out.
"I can't breathe," I tried to say, but the words weren't coming out. "I can't breathe" again and again until I blacked out.