With the Black Life Matters movement, riots, and peaceful protests plastering the news headlines, it made me bring up the matter of race with Diego, my boyfriend who is Mexican. I asked Diego if the term “Person/People of Color” or “POC” offend him, personally. He stated that, “there are a lot worse things to be called than a POC because, that’s what we are.” It brought up his feelings about his own racial injustices that he faced because of the color of his skin.
Four years ago, Diego and I were running in a primarily white part of town, very upscale neighborhoods with homes worth between $600-800,000 dollars. We were walking down a hill, finishing our cool down, walking towards his parents’ home which was in a trailer park that primarily Hispanic people resided in. Two cop cars were at the stoplight and one was coming up the hill, toward our direction and another had past us going the opposite direction. When the cops saw us walking down the hill, the cop going the opposite direction flipped around in the middle of the empty intersection and turned toward us in the car and the other cop car followed. They both blocked one lane trying to get as close to us on the sidewalk as possible.
The two police officers got out of their respective vehicles and asked us to stop so they could ask us a few questions. Having done nothing wrong nor seeing any suspicious activity piqued our interests, but made us concerned on what they wanted to do with us. We were sweaty and in exercise clothes. Each cop separated Diego and I and they spoke to each of us privately. They had received a 911 call for a noise complaint; that a woman had been yelling at a man and the call came from a street we didn’t even run on or use that evening. To give some perspective, Diego is 5’11” and 280lbs. while I am 4’11” and 150lbs. They initially asked Diego if he had his ID on him, which he did. He tried to give it to his cop and the cop wouldn’t take it. I asked my cop if he wanted my ID, which I didn’t have on my person because my purse was back at the house. But he said no and didn’t need my information.
Then my cop asked if Diego had been harassing me tonight and I said no he is not abusive in any way. Then the cop asked if he had been chasing me and I said no we were running. Then he asked if he had yelled at me and I said no. No one spoke or talked at all because we were running. The cop released me from questioning and shortly after, the other cop released Diego from questioning. The police compared notes and decided, reluctantly to let Diego and I go.
I asked Diego what the police asked him and Diego said the police asked him questions that made the story seem like he was attacking me. I said that the cop thought Diego was harming me. But the 911 call was about a woman yelling at a man, not the other way around. We weren’t even on the street where the noise complaint was made, we didn’t hear a disturbance.
Diego and I summed the situation up to be racial profiling. Not his first nor will it be his last time dealing with racial inequity or inequality, but it was my first time witnessing the injustice first hand.
For days, I was outraged. For weeks, I mourned Diego and the fact that he would ever have to go through something so inhumane as racial profiling. That wasn’t even the worst part. He could go to work one day and not come home that night because of racism. He could be killed because of the color of his skin. I thought of our future children who would be half white and half Mexican. Their complexion would be dark and how would they be treated?
I asked Diego how he felt and said that if he lived in fear, he wouldn’t be living at all. But it would be a lie if he wasn’t sometimes afraid. He said, “Dani, now you have a little perspective of what I go through each and every day. But you will never understand what I go through. You may think you do, but you don’t due to your privilege.”
Up until that point, I thought I was an ally among POC because I was:
- Dating a Mexican. I couldn’t possibly be racist or give into white privilege because I heard his struggles with racial inequity and was about fighting injustice when I witnessed it; I wasn’t about to be a person who just video tapes a situation and not intervene.
- I honestly thought I understood Diego’s life when it came to prejudice. Although I hadn’t faced inequality personally, I witnessed first hand the racial profiling of when the cops tried to frame Diego into a crime that didn’t suit their 911 call because they had a personal agenda to fulfill.
- I never spoke for a POC. This is something I still struggle with… I never wanted to speak about Diego or anyone else for that matter’s struggle because it didn’t happen to me personally. I have no right to share his adversity because it is his to share, not my own. But then again, many have died tragic deaths because no one spoke out and defended them, but my issue with this is where or how is it my place to say anything? I am white. I don’t understand nor could I ever comprehend the struggle of a POC because I have nor would ever face it myself.
The truth is I am an ally for those who face racial bias. I may not be on the front lines of the peaceful protests, screaming the injustices that have happened. I recognize the system is broken, whether it be in regard to police brutality or racial injustice. But I stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves any longer. I will and have fought for equity among all people. I share Diego’s story, not because he can’t, but because I am shedding light to a situation and admitting that a) yes, police will racially profile an individual to meet an unstated agenda, and b) had I not been there to prove his innocence or had lied and said he was chasing me or attacking me when he wasn’t, this story could have had a very different ending.
I was originally going to write this post about labels that I was faced with and how they can either help or hinder you. But the racial slurs that my fellow humans face who are POC hinder them in every way. They don’t help anyone, except for the enemy feel superior about themselves. White supremacy is very real and everyone regardless of race, gender, etc. have an obligation to fight the injustice that minorities are faced with. Without the help of white individuals, our fellow humans will not be heard in their fight for equity.
Til Next Time,