Someone tried to make me a hashtag today.
I was a block away from the library when the police questioned me.
Then they left. What about the person waving the gun? Did you really just leave me here with a gun waving, orange coat bandit on the loose?
I returned nigger: An Autobiography by Dick Gregory to the library.
I have never been arrested.
I have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and I am a doctoral student. I have my teaching credential and my administrative credential. I have over 10 years of teaching experience, including 9 years as a math teacher for the Moreno Valley School District. The district boardroom, where I received awards for my accomplishments, was also a block away.
None of this mattered. If I had reached in my pocket for my license, I would have been shot. If I just kept walking, I would have been tackled and/or shot. If I had a little too much sass in my answers… do I even have to say it? And why should it have mattered if I was on parole or probation? If I were a convicted felon who had served my time, would I not be allowed to walk down the street?
I lost my desire to walk home. I called my cousin to give me a ride home. We traded stories of negative interactions with police officers.
When I felt calm enough, I called the police department to find out more about the description I fit so well. There was a report of someone with an orange jacket, dark green pants, and a dark-colored backpack waving a gun. There was no gender reported.
I have two theories:
Regardless of what precipitated the report, I was forced to confront my fear of police officers head on today. People who look like me are more likely to be killed in interactions with the police, and ever since Prince was murdered, I have been extra sensitive about dealing with the police.
If I had been killed on the street this afternoon, there would have outrage and sadness. #TalishaTolliver would be trending. People would say that my life mattered. Other people would say the officers were doing their jobs and it was my fault that I forced them to kill me.
Then life would go on. People who never knew me would move on to the next story.
I didn’t die today. I have been given a chance to tell my story and I’m not throwin’ away my shot. I’m going to rise up and write my way out of deadly stereotypes. Did I mention I was listening to Hamilton when I was walking?