I Was Stalked At Age 12, And The Police Did NOTHING

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I Was Stalked At Age 12, And The Police Did NOTHING

At 12, I learned that police officers were not around to protect me or my community.

By Raquel Reichard

Since January, at least 618 people have been killed by the hands of the police, most of them individuals of color. In that time, hundreds, if not thousands, more were hunted, harassed or injured by officers. There are also those who called on the authorities, who are tasked to “protect and serve,” when their lives were in danger and were painfully reminded that those in blue rarely come to the aid of those whose skin is black or brown.

As a puertorriqueña, I learned that lesson when I was 12 years old, around the same time I met my stalker.

It was a typical humid Orlando evening. The sun was coming down, indicating that it was time to leave my friend’s house and make my way to mine. I was with another amiga at the time, and her mother was going to pick her up from my place, so we made the 3-minute walk to my crib together. In that time, we noticed a driving car come to a sudden stop once it made its way next to us.

I didn’t think anything of it, but when I looked ahead, I noticed my friend’s steps getting a little wider and a lot faster. Curious, I turned back around to find that same vehicle reversing slowly, almost as if it were following us. By the time I looked forward again, my friend was running, and it clicked for me: that car was following us.

I jetted as fast as I could, soon catching up to her. Frightened, we both looked at each other, turned our heads back and noticed no one was chasing us anymore. Shocked and out of breath, we stopped, just silently staring at one another for a moment, unsure if what we thought just happened really occurred. It didn’t take long for us to be certain. The car reappeared, this time driving onward and charging straight toward us. We ran faster, made it to my house and pounded on the gated door for what felt like a lifetime before my father opened up.

Once he did, the driver of that dirty white vehicle, who had parked in front of my driveway, enjoying the front-row seat to our panic, drove away.

My friend and I didn’t exchange many words for the rest of the night. Soon, her mother picked her up, and I was left trying to persuade myself, once more, that what just happened wasn’t as horrifying as it felt, that I had watched one too many Lifetime movies with mami and was taking this whole thing to dramatic levels. But then I looked out the window and spotted the same car parked in the cul-de-sac right in front of my house.

Night after night, the automobile would pull up in the same spot while the driver just sat there staring up at my window.

It didn’t take long for the visits to come during the day as well. I stopped leaving the house. The only place I walked was to and from my school bus stop, and soon even my bus driver, Dios la bendiga, began stopping in a different, and much closer, location just for me.

My father, who worked a lot at the time, didn’t see what I was telling him, and thought, like I previously did, that I was overreacting. That changed on a Thursday night, the moment he saw for himself that a man was parked in a white car in front of the house. He phoned 911, and about 30 minutes later, a white woman officer was in my living room.

I gave her details of the chase. My father described the car and told her where it sat every night. My brother verified that the vehicle had been following me. But the cop, unconvinced, left quicker than it took her to arrive. She was out in what felt like five minutes, if that. With paperwork barely filed and no suggestions for me or my parents, I knew that this woman whose uniform indicated that she was concerned with safety and protection didn’t want to guard or help me.

At that moment I knew this wasn’t a Lifetime movie, because that wasn’t the way white victims on the TV screen were treated by law enforcement. It was the first time my father’s oft-repeated remarks that officers “don’t care about us,” “are racist” and are “the biggest criminals” felt real and personal.

Soon, it became more and more apparent how officers cared little, if at all, for low-income Puerto Ricans like us.

I remembered the several times they harassed my older Afro-Latino brother as well as his Black and brown elementary school friends when they would play basketball or baseball outside of our old house, once even putting the then-fifth-graders in handcuffs for just being children. When he was in high school, the racial discrimination was somehow even more blatant, like when he was arrested and expelled for having a nickel bag of weed on him, while the white high school dealer wasn’t even cuffed, or the times officers and jail guards “roughed him up” just ‘cause.

More recently, the brazen examples look like my 7-year-old Black nephew worrying if his papi is going to die when he is pulled over by the cops. They look like a SWAT team pointing guns at my Puerto Rican partner for pumping gas while Black. They look like officers more interested in catcalling me than offering help.

But, truthfully, this is how the police force has always operated in the United States. In fact, it’s how it was created.

The police force is an extension of slavery. During the period in the U.S.' not-so-distant history when Africans were enslaved and considered nothing more than chattel, this country created a policing system where impoverished white men were hired to enforce pro-slavery laws, like being paid to search for, capture and re-enslave those Black people who ran away. While these “officers,” or “fugitive slave catchers,” were not called “the police,” they were characterized very similarly to those in blue today. These men were tasked, as Jezebel Delilah X of Everyday Feminism explains, to "enforce the laws of slavery and to protect the peace of wealthy white land/slave owners," not unlike cops "protect and serve."

While slavery has been legally abolished in the U.S., it reappears in prisons across the nation, where people of color, who make up 30 percent of the U.S., account for 60 percent of those behind bars, where they, too, lose their rights and are treated like second-class citizens – if that. The racist roots of the police force is also felt in the War on Drugs, mandatory minimums, the school-to-prison pipeline, the box, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, stop-and-frisk and other forms of violence and surveillance.

At 12, I learned that police officers were not around to protect me or my community.

When my father, uncle, brother and a few baseball bats had to handle my stalker themselves, it was clear to me that only the ‘hood has the ‘hood’s back. At 26, I am reminded every day by news headlines, stories from loved ones and the frightened look on my nephew’s face when he spots what’s supposed to be a “friendly” cop in uniform that we need, and must demand or create ourselves, alternatives to a policing system rooted in anti-blackness and white supremacy.



This article was originally published at Latina. Reprinted with permission from the author.


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