Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: April 24, 2017

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Submitted: April 24, 2017

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Life puts us in situations where we feel stuck and have nowhere else to go, like caged animals. They are taken from their homes into zoos and parks to start their new lives under the rules and conditions of human beings. Trapped in these facilities, they reproduce offspring that are unaware of where they naturally belong. Many undergo neglect and mistreatment from the owners no matter how many times they try to act “right.”

My parents thought I was at theater practice, which is where I probably should have been. Instead, I went to pick up my boyfriend, Clarence, from his school in a different city. He was an intelligent, tall, African American football player and the sweetest gentleman I have ever met. I didn’t tell my parents I was dating anyone. I knew they would have been upset if they found out. Clarence had just got out of football practice, and I could not wait to spend the rest of the day with him. We were on our way to my city when my car began slowing down, and I couldn’t get it to speed up faster than fifteen miles per hour. Panicked and scared, I pulled over to the nearest neighborhood I could find. I turned the car off so maybe it could cool down and start working again. To take my mind off the problem, I talked to Clarence about school and what I had learned that day.

On the inside I was having a panic attack, but on the outside I was trying to keep calm. Millions of concerns were going through my head. The car had stopped working out of nowhere, I couldn’t call my parents for help because I had Clarence in the car with me, I was not where I was supposed to be, and the list goes on. To make matters worse, when I peeked in the passenger mirror, I noticed a cop car slowly approaching behind us.

Trapped like an animal in a zoo, I sat there frozen in shock. A police officer got out of his vehicle and started to approach mine. I had never dealt with cops, so one can imagine how nervous I was. My heart was racing faster than I had ever felt before, and my hands twitched slightly. I rolled my window down, and the first thing the officer said was, “Do either of you have a license or any ID?” I noticed he didn’t bother to ask for registration like a normal procedure. But I gave him my license anyway, and Clarence gave him his school ID.  I knew the officer was acting sketchy when he gave a hard look at our photo IDs, took them to the back of my car, and placed them on my trunk. I watched him as he took his personal cell phone out and took pictures of our IDs.

The officer then told us to get out of the vehicle even though we had not done anything wrong. But I was not going to question his authority. I was only sixteen. I was scared my parents were going to find out. I was scared of getting in trouble for driving a minor. Clarence and I were unaware of what the consequences would be if we questioned the authority. The officer opened the door to the backseat of his vehicle and told me, “Take a seat.”

“Am I being arrested?” I asked.

“Detained.”

Shortly after, my boyfriend came outside of the car and was patted down from shoulders to feet. I saw the disappointment in Clarence’s eyes when he was being treated like a criminal even though he was far from it. He never smoked, drank a sip of alcohol, or broke the law. Clarence was mistreated because the officer just saw him as another African American male. The incident reminded me of Trayvon Martin, who was violently killed for minding his own business. In that moment I was more concerned for him than for myself because his skin tone was darker than mine, and he did not deserve to be pushed and searched like a convicted felon.

My boyfriend and I sat together in the back of the cop’s car quietly. Clarence’s head was down and his legs shook fast; I knew he was terrified. I noticed a tear coming down his face. I just felt helpless because we were in the same boat. Suddenly, Clarence said sobbing, “Man. Why do they always treat us like this?”

I was at a loss for words. Without a doubt, we were still completely clueless of what we had done wrong. We noticed another police car pulling up slowly behind us. I thought to myself, He just called for back up. We’re going to jail. But why?

The police officer opened my boyfriend’s door and asked, “Can we take a quick look in the car?”

Out of fear, Clarence quickly responded, “Yes. Go ahead.”

I thought for a second and said hesitantly, “Wait…. Don’t you need a warrant?”

The cop said, “No I don’t.”

I didn’t want to push his limits, so I just agreed with Clarence so he would let us go. I definitely knew there was nothing in my car, but my boyfriend and I anxiously watched him carefully going through my things. The only possessions the officer found were my school books, my book bag, and in the trunk my one-year-old nephew’s toys.

The officer came back to us and said, “There was a robbery in this neighborhood recently. You guys just happened to be here. Y’all were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He did not apologize. I doubt he realized he had scared the living crap out of two innocent teenagers for absolutely no reason. But he let us go. Thankfully the car turned on and was working again. I felt a huge burden tip off my shoulders. There were no words to explain how great our relief felt in the moment. On our way back home, we rode in complete silence. We have not discussed that horrific experience to this day, two years later. Clarence was traumatized. For young African American males, this kind of treatment happens too often.

When I reflect on this event, I get frustrated thinking about how different the scenario could have gone if Clarence and I had been educated on our rights. People tend to be passive to a higher authority out of fear or ignorance just like how animals can react to the humans controlling them. In some instances, police officers act entitled, as if they have no limits to their actions. How could the officer detain me and search my car when I did not commit a crime or show any signs that I had done so? I felt an invasion of privacy and property, and my boyfriend was racially profiled, which has become the norm in America.

I am a firm believer that the purpose for the police is to protect and serve for the good of the people. But I refuse to believe that we should allow the authority to take advantage of their power to turn against the people. I refuse to feel like an animal trapped in a zoo for being innocent. I have never forgotten the officer’s words when he said that we were at the “wrong place at the wrong time.” So if only I had parked in the next neighborhood over, then I wouldn’t have been wrongfully accused, detained, and had my vehicle searched by the police? His “logic” did not make sense. I still don’t understand the reason behind that phrase. It is disappointing that those were the same words that people applied to the case of Trayvon Martin, too.  Being at “the wrong place at the wrong time” is foolish to say; there are no words to justify that acts of injustice are ever right.


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