The First Time I Had The Police Called On Me As A Black Child
I asked my friends and followers, “How old were you when the police were called on you?” and over 40 participants in my direct network replied with the youngest response being 10 and the oldest being 17.
I was a 14-year old girl going on a Mother-Daughter date on a Friday evening. My mom and I arrived at Red Lobster in Aiken, South Carolina, and drove into a parking spot. As I was opening the passenger door to get out of the car, my door tapped the rearview mirror of the car beside me. I quickly got out of the car and saw a white couple that was sitting in the car. The woman was in the driver seat and she had this cool wavy blonde hair and the guy had on a camouflage baseball cap. I waved to the woman, and said, “Sorry, Ma’am” and pointed at her mirror and gave her a thumbs up so she knew that everything was okay with her mirror.
As I began to walk towards my mom to walk inside the restaurant, I hear the woman yelling as she jumps out of her car. She was so angry. She was enraged. I immediately felt an unsafe feeling in the pit of my stomach.
She screams to me “Hey you! Come here right now!”
I look at my mother and she has just as much fear in her eyes, so I knew something was wrong.
I stop and turn around to meet the woman halfway and she is still yelling at me. Let’s call this woman, Karen.
Karen: Who do you think you are? You just hit my window and you are just going to walk away?
Me: *in a very timid voice* I said I was sorry, and I gave you a thumbs up because I didn’t see any damage to the window
Karen: That was not an apology. You don’t have a right to be anywhere near my car!
Me: I am sorry. It was a mistake. I did not mean to hit. There was no damage. I really am sorry.
Karen: That’s not good enough!
My Mom: What do you mean? She said she’s sorry, what else do you want from her? We can pay to get the window replaced if there is additional damage that you see”
Karen: That’s not good enough! I want another apology that is better!”
Me: I really am sorry
Karen doesn’t say anything and turns around and walks away. I turn around with my mom and I say to her, “Mom, that woman was really mean and ignorant.”
The woman hears me and immediately runs behind me.
Karen: Excuse me!? I am going to teach you a lesson! Let’s see if you have that same attitude when the police arrive.
My mother is so upset but mostly at me…
My mom: Joy, why did you say that? You could have waited until we got inside to talk to me. You know your voice carries. Now, the police are getting involved.
Karen: *on the phone* A black woman that just hit my car and now she’s threatening me! I am at Red Lobster in Aiken. Please hurry!
Why did she even say that I was black? It’s like she knew immediately what power that description had with law enforcement.
At this point, I was scared out of my mind. I was the top student of my class, all As, Captain in Band, Starting 3rd baseman for JV Softball and I just got the police called on me.
I was going to jail.
There was nothing my mom could do. I shouldn’t have said anything. Why didn’t I apologize right? I was so angry at myself at this moment for being so stupid. I hated myself.
The police arrive soon… it seemed like it took no time for them to get there.
Out of this police car hopped a tall white man. At the time, he seemed like twice my height… I knew this was it. I knew I was going to jail and that everything was over for me.
He walks up to Karen and asked, “What seems to be the problem, ma’am?”
Karen: Thank God, you’re here! That girl hit my mirror!”
The police officer pauses and looks at me then looks back at her.
Police Officer: Let me see the mirror
He follows Karen to her car and confidently she points at the mirror that I tapped.
Police Officer: I don’t see anything *with a look of confusion*
He then walks over to me and my mom and asks us what happened from our perspective.
Me: I tapped the window when getting out of my mom’s car. I told her sorry and made sure I checked for damage and gave her a thumbs up and then she got out of her car and said I didn’t apologize right she demanded that I apologize again…
Interrupted by my mom…
My Mom: And I offered my insurance information and money to pay for any damages she saw
Interrupted by Karen…
Karen: AND SHE got an attitude with me and called me out of my name!
Police Officer: *Looks at me* Is that what you did?
Me: After I apologized the third time, my mom and I were walking in the store and I said that lady was mean and ignorant for making me feel so small.
Karen: See! You see what I mean!?
Police Officer: *laughs and turns around to look at Karen* You should be ashamed! This is a child who you tried to humiliate over and over again. What kind of person would belittle a child? I agree with her, you are mean and ignorant.
Was I dreaming!?
Those words sounded off like Heaven in my ears.
A sense of relief came over me. My mom was shocked. She couldn’t believe the officer took our side. Not because we were wrong but because she had not experienced that before.
This woman used her privilege to try to harm a black child all because she felt some false sense of superiority.
We all have the privilege and we should never use that to bring harm unto others. Our privilege should be to help others instead.
Don’t be a Karen.
The recent events of many like Karen have highlighted an ongoing pandemic infecting our nation. For those of you who are unaware, the Karen Pandemic is defined as a pejorative term for a woman perceived to be self-entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary, especially in public settings such as retail stores and restaurants. It is commonly associated with an American middle-aged white woman who displays aggressive behavior when prevented from getting her way; such women are often depicted as frequently wishing to “speak to the manager” over minor inconveniences and using their privilege to call the police to harm those she finds inferior.
We can all change this by understanding our privilege and calling out others when they believe they are superior to others at work, in schools, and in our communities.