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“The first time I recall being afraid of a police officer was at the age of six in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. My mother was stopped for running a red light as I was riding in the back seat. She gripped the steering wheel and muttered instructions to me. Stay calm. Don’t talk back. Don’t look suspicious. The cop car’s red and blue lights showered over us.
Even at six years old, I was struck by the fear in my mother’s voice. After we were told we could drive away, I asked her enough questions to precipitate the infamous “talk” that many Black parents have with their children. That day, she taught me that I should never think of my body as innocent—that I must always consider how others view it through racist eyes—and what that entails: keeping my distance from white people when walking late at night, never making sudden movements when interacting with police. Eventually, America proved these rules to be relevant with the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, a Black boy who was attacked and shot by a neighbor while walking to his father’s house. Martin and I, at the time of his death, were only one year apart in age.
“What’s most important is that you survive,” my mother said to me that day, “Not everyone survives.””
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