Last spring, on the way to an acting class I was stopped by a black male cop on the subway. It was over a defective turnstile, and about 20 other subway riders, who happened to all be white, had the same issue, walked through the emergency exit and were not stopped by the police.
The thing was, this officer approached me, found out my age, flirted with me and when I did not respond to his flirting, his attitude shifted. The officer ordered me to the upstairs platform and as I answered his questions, he did not like my tone and the situation began to escalate. He threatened to arrest me, his voice began to rise, he told me to take my hands out of my pockets…all after he saw me pulling my phone out to record this incident. He told me that he was in his right to arrest me and that I should shut up because he was doing me a favor.
While this was going on, I noticed, I was the only black person on the platform. This was in my neighborhood, in Park Slope, Brooklyn… for the past 5 years, this was my regular subway stop. My anger began to rise….I mean I worked my ass off to live in an expensive apartment, in a safe predominately white neighborhood because as a single black woman… I felt safe there. Now here I am…with my funky Brooklyn style hipster glasses, only to be harassed and threatened…by the police.
How dare he… I’m not a criminal, this isn’t FAIR….my mind began to boil. As my mind was churning my mouth was running. With every smart ass remark this cop threw at me, I had a comeback to cut him down. His voice raised and I looked around and people were looking at me like I was some sort of criminal. No one stopped. No one was there for me. Then, I looked behind me and there were about 7 police officers standing there. Then I saw movement by the staircase down towards the platform…there was a white woman there who waved at me. She signaled that she had her eyes on him. She was my witness.
As he yelled at me I realized I had no power at all in this situation I never want to be arrested so I decided to take a passive stance. As he asked me questions I said,”I respectfully decline answering.” He began to try to instigate a reaction out of me, commenting on my weight and breast size asking his fellow officers their opinions on my my body, and other inappropriate comments. He drew circles on his notepad pretending to take notes while he made fun of me, and the other officers laughed. So I just stood there with my hands at my sides palms open focusing on my breath not saying a word. He kept me there for 45 minutes.
The white woman standing on the stairway, stood there the whole time and watched what those officers did. When he was finished, and finally let me go, I walked down the platform stairs, she, the white woman walked with me for a few steps then gave me a hug and we both cried. She said, “I saw what they did, and that it wasn’t right. This isn’t how our police officers are supposed to act.”
I asked her,” Did I look strong? Did it look like he was getting to me?” She said “No. You were fucking awesome.”
She gave me her number, and said she’d be my witness if I wanted to report him. I took it.
I later spoke with a station agent (who happened to be a black man) at that station…(Before this incident, I did not even know that there was a station at that stop, because it is such a big station, and the agent is located mid tunnel) and do you know what that agent said to me? He said that those cops do things like that to women ALL THE TIME. He said I was lucky people were around. He said, they could have done anything to you in the area of the station where the cameras aren’t active. He said I was smart to just be quiet.
I ended up having to pay an $100 ticket for this. I could have reported him…but the process of doing so..is ridiculous I decided not to. So I paid the ticket but now I see the police with new eyes.
I don’t have an answer, but when I saw the tragedy of Sandra Bland… I sat down and cried.
What a shame. What a shame. My voice is my power. How can I stay silent?