An Unexpected Encounter

Anger, sadness, incredulity… Here is why police and communities of color need to engage in an open conversation to foster trust.

POETRY

On the afternoon of July 18th, I was sitting on my porch enjoying the summer breeze while talking with my therapist. Suddenly, my body was flooded with an overabundance of cortisol as 2 squad cars pulled up in front of my residence. A wave of questions entered my hypervigilant mind: What did I do wrong? Do I fit the profile of the person they are searching for? Am I about to be arrested?

The fear in my eyes was palpable, and it was evident as one of the officers exited the vehicle. He attempted to quell my fears by explaining the reason for their presence: a faulty security system at a neighbor’s house. During his explanation, he chuckled, seemingly as an attempt to bring levity to the situation by saying, “We are not here for you.” His words evoked an array of emotions ranging from anger, sadness, and incredulity.

I do not believe that this officer had any malice in his heart; however, I pondered the following question: Would he have said those same words if I were White? I am Black man who is a part of a larger community where relations with law enforcement have been historically strained. The encounter that took place today further illustrates the importance of creating brave, safe spaces for people with my worn identity to discuss our lived experiences. Furthermore, I would call on our citizens in blue to engage in a healthy dialogue with communities of color on how to deliquesce division and foster trust.

Our fear is real and should never be invalidated. I am thankful for the support of my therapist and my wife, 2 of my allies that helped me process the incident that took place on this day. Words matter. Our lives matter. Humanity matters. I will leave with some food for thought in the form of a haiku:

Cortisol bemoans

while Black trauma reappears

gasping for respite 

Dr Clark is clinical assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville and medical director & division chief for Adult Inpatient and Consult-Liaison Services for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Prisma Health-Upstate. He serves as the Diversity & Inclusion Section Editor and Advisory Board member for Psychiatric TimesTM.