My Healing Is Undone Every Time One of Us Is Killed by the Police
How do I work to get better if my presence in this country is a constant threat?
On one unexpectedly temperate night in December 2014, I was taken into police custody after attempting to place myself between a young Black man who was curled up in the fetal position on the asphalt in front of me, and the two officers who were beating him across the back with their batons. My response was a gut reaction to having spent a season wrapping my face in black scarves and pouring milk in my eyes to counteract the corrosive effects of tear gas. I had spent months watching police officers from all over the Bay Area converge on my city, littering it with bean bag rounds and flash bang grenades in their attempts to quell the unrest that had enveloped the nation. Earlier that year, police officers had murdered Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, one right after the other. All over the country, demonstrators were protesting the murders of unarmed Black people at the hands of police, and that night, we were out in response to a grand jury’s decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner.
Compared to other protesters, I had it easy. I was only detained for one night, and my charge was dropped months later. But at the time, I felt deeply in my bones that I would disappear into the system. After all, I had been snatched off the streets of Oakland as I was leaving a protest, and was being told that my arrest was due to the fact that I had violated California Penal Code 409 by failing to disperse from an unlawful assembly. Despite my existing mental health issues, which the officer performing my intake had catalogued, I was put into a cell by myself for most of the night. Though I had written a list of numbers on my arms in case of my arrest, only one was local. The call did not go through. I sat in my cell contending with the belief that no one knew where I was, and that no one was looking for me. In the sleepless hours that followed, I confronted a difficult truth: If I made it out alive, this would not be the last of it. As a queer Black femme, my life would always be in danger as long as I lived in a country that detested the very essence of me.