Opinion: My experience driving while black

Ray Strickland

It was a summer day in Akron when my perception of the world and the way it works changed.
My brother, a friend of mine and I were driving down Delia Avenue in Akron and noticed an Akron police car behind us. 
We immediately buckled our seat belts, straightened the rear-view mirror and tightened our posture as fast we could.
After driving about a mile to the local drive thru on Copley Road, the cops stopped us, for what they said was a traffic violation. They said we turned in the right lane, instead of the left. This is a common practice in law enforcement.
The white cop approached us and at first seemed calm. But, after the first few minutes the cop began to talk down to us, belittling us. He also began talking about my mother, while insulting my brother, who was the driver. 
Moments later, he asked us to step out the car. We were hesitant because it was only a traffic violation. 
Before stepping out the car, we realized there were three to four squad cars, converging on us, as if we were big-time drug dealers smuggling drugs across the United States-Mexican border.
Once we got out the car, they searched us. It was the most uncomfortable search, as they checked for drugs.
As most Americans are aware, driving while black is very measurable and statistics have shown it is very much true. The Washington Post reported last year, based on Justice Department statistics, “a black driver is about 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than a white driver, or about 23 percent more likely than a Hispanic driver.” 
I’m not suggesting we were pulled over because we were three black males; I’m telling you we were pulled over because we were three black males.
The police got a call over his walkie talkie from his partner or a dispatcher telling them someone was shot around the corner from where we were and they left quickly.
I’m not sure if there is any police officer or officers that will leave a traffic stop entirely, after having about five to six police officers respond to a scene.
There are instances much worse than my encounter with police. For example, a black woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over by a white police officer for a minor traffic violation. The officer was seen and heard acting aggressively, while Bland was just as testy, reacting to the officers tone. Bland was taken to the local jail and days later found hanging in her jail cell. 
This all led from a minor traffic violation such as mine. But, the person pulled over is not the only people affected. The entire black population are affected and are victims as well.
My situation with police could have turned ugly. It could have got deadly. Although I’m happy it didn’t, it continues to haunt me and shape my perception about police and the way the world works.
I know all cops aren’t racist and I definitely don’t think all whites are racist. But, the same can’t be said for all blacks. 
It only takes one bad experience with a white person for a black person to think that all whites are racist or somewhat prejudice. 
This does no good for race relations in America and the idea that all (or majority) blacks are criminals has to be forgotten.
Ray Strickland is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].