Compared to my PINAC colleagues, I’m fairly new in the field of document and reporting on police interaction with the public. Despite this, I’ve had my fair share of run ins with police and while I’m fortunate to not have met the same fate as other Black men at the hands of police, systemic bias and targeting has inherently left me in the crosshairs of overzealous cops. There is some credibility to just comply and in most cases you’ll still live at the end of the encounter. The knowledge of how ill-equipped I am to be able to stand my ground and confront police in the heat of the moment has afforded me the ability to hold my tongue, even if my demeanor shows a storm brewing within.
Growing up in South Florida, racism was a thing but at the time, I was almost oblivious towards the prejudice and bigotry displayed by White people in positions of power or not. The racism I dealt with more frequently was the colorism and ethnic identification of others who bore the same skin tone as I. In hindsight, the social engineering that pitted Blacks against each other regardless of the land they walked on was a bigger driving force in my school, church, and community. As the son of immigrants, I was forced to resolve my need for acceptance with people that looked like me with brainwashing by my very own parents ( who are Haitian ) who railed against American Blacks.
With my dad being a preacher, that mentality crossed over to his messages/sermons from the pulpit. My parents, especially my dad, frowned upon friendships I had with other youth in the church but if I couldn’t be friends with the youth in the church that had a closer background similarity than the American Black and I couldn’t befriend the American Black, I was left seeking out acceptance from the Latino community and the historical oppressors of African descendants. Quite the conundrum mentally. Needless to say, I was unable to walk that fine line of confusion.
I could go into detail as to how self-hate was instilled more and more as I grew up but it would bring up too many harsh memories I would rather leave buried. Trying to find my place in this world became such a daunting task that to this day I still question my identity, my choices, my preferences, my beliefs and more. I grew up wishing I was any other nationality than what I was born. I would texturize my hair and say that I was dominican. I would wear color contacts to change my eye color. I would seek out relations with those who were non-Black. I was, and still am, a mess.
In spite of all that though, I latched on to the belief that human is human and that every human is by birthright, a right to existence, sustainability, and prosperity. Seeing injustice regardless of the color of the person’s skin always struck a chord. “Can’t we all just get along?” and if not, can we all at least just live our lives uninterrupted without having our basic existence infringed upon?
Fast forward to my adult years and I still grapple with the teachings I received as a child and the reality that is before me. They say in the Bible that the “people perish for a lack of knowledge…” I would have to add that the lack of knowledge is knowledge of self. Without a true, deeply rooted knowledge of self, we are vulnerable to the imagery and the messages we are bombarded with daily that attempts to tell us who we are. Who would jump at accepting being a member of the most reviled and hated and discriminated demographic in America and around the globe? I’m sure no one wants that. Unfortunately, we don’t choose our parents or our ethnicities.
While my run-ins with police have been spread out and over minor infractions (traffic), as current events show a simple traffic stop can escalate quickly and the worst can happen. It’s gotten to the point where my responses, if any, to police during one of these traffic stops are vey curt and borderline sarcastice. For example when an officer is asking where do I live while looking at my driver’s license, my exasperation with them causes me to reply they’re looking at the license already and it’s the same information on their computer in the patrol vehicle.
For the sake of my Black children, real reform is needed with police and better accountability is a must. Too many officers get off with abusive tactics against minorities just off their own inherent bias. Too many minority families pay the price for officers’ ignorance.
So here I am as an adult with kids and I have to somehow arm my children with a knowledge of self that I’m supposedly still trying to figure out. I love my people but I hate my people in the same breath. I yearn for their upliftment while despising them at the same time. My soul cries for and because of them. I am not centered. I am human. We all are. If we could somehow get to the point where we can empathize with the human factor and not give so much energy to our differences the world would be a different place. Alas, it is not and the struggle for identity of self continues.
I am Stevenson.