Harassment Lives

We have reasons for fearing cops

By Fahizah Alim
September 2021

Like any citizen, I’m concerned about violence and want to be protected by the police from criminals. But as a Black mother of three sons, I have an additional concern about my family members being harmed by the police.

My fears are based on history. Black men are frequently viewed as dangerous because of their skin color. Their lives have been devalued for centuries, a reality that continues even today.

In the June editions of Inside Sacramento, R.E. Graswich wrote about the city’s challenges with adopting a restrictive deadly force policy for police (“Don’t Call Us”). I’m not necessarily critical of the issue Graswich brought up in terms of the debate around language that would limit police use of deadly force.

What I have a problem with is that Graswich characterized residents who brought up the deadly force issue as a “gaggle of people who don’t like cops.”

I think that’s a glaringly misleading perspective. The issue of creating a new policy to restrain “bad” cops is necessary—because a gaggle of people FEAR the cops!

Black people fear cops because many cops harass and shoot unarmed Black people—indiscriminately and with no consequences.

I have three sons. One earned a doctorate degree and is a professor at UCLA law school. Ever since he began driving, cops have repeatedly stopped him. This was the routine he endured every few weeks while a student at UC Davis: Hands on the steering wheel. “Yes officer, I’m a student here. I belong here. Can I get my ID and registration?”

All three of my sons are college-educated, law-abiding, employed, peaceful, never-been-arrested young Black men. Still, all three have been stopped more times than they can count by police. Why? Because they were driving while Black and somehow looked “suspicious.”

We live in a gated community in Pocket. One Sunday morning, I was out sitting on the gated dock across from my house. The gate requires a key, which I use just like all the other residents. I had my housedress on, reading the newspaper with my coffee and my little dog Pookie seated beside me.

A security guard who patrols our neighborhood came over to the gate and yelled at me. “Do you live over here? How did you get in there?” he said.

I replied, “Obviously with my key.”

He said, “You could’ve climbed over there.”

Yes, with my bum knee, my housedress, my Sunday paper, my coffee and my little dog, I clearly looked like someone who had been climbing over gates.

Why did he accost me? Do you think he would have confronted and harassed a middle age White woman who was just sitting there reading her paper with her coffee and dog?

I reported him and immediately joined the neighborhood security committee so I could express my reality and concerns and ensure that my sons—who either live with me or visit often—would not be harassed by the security patrols.

This is our reality. Black people have been killed with impunity for hundreds of years. It continues today with some bad cops. We endure daily harassments and humiliations. We have to address this issue. It cannot continue as it has been. Changes have to be made.

Fahizah Alim is a state government communications director and former journalist. Comments can be sent to editor@insidesacramento.com.

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