(Salon) – At age sixteen, I went to a high school dance with a white male friend. When we pulled up to the gym, music blaring loudly out the windows, a police officer came over as we got out of the truck, and began shining his flashlight around the cab, questioning what we teenagers were doing there — at a high school dance. I immediately apprised the officer of the fact that he had no right to conduct a search of my friend’s vehicle without probable cause. Our music had not been loud enough for a noise violation, and we had turned it off, as soon as my friend parked the car.
The officer continued to saunter around the vehicle shining his flashlight, asking us questions, throwing his weight around to let us know he was the one with power. But I had questioned him instinctively. I didn’t think about it, about the consequences, about the ways in which my questions might be perceived as resistance or threat. I saw a police officer improperly enforcing the law, and I was just arrogant and naïve enough to think that the principles we had learned in Civics and American History actually mattered. He was on a power trip, and people on power trips irritate me.
“You seem irritated,” a police officer said to Sandra Bland when he pulled her over two Fridays ago for failure to signal. “I am. I really am,” she told him.