Some years ago I was working on restoring my car. It was a little Fiat convertible, and it was my pride and joy. I had installed a new dual-bobble carburateur, and was under the hood tuning it to perfection.
Soon a guy in a suit pulled up behind me and started asking me about the Fiat. Another car lover, I thought, and we talked for several minutes before he informed me that he was the Police Chief for the city, and someone had reported a car theft in progress. He asked to see my ID.
As I reached for my wallet I heard sirens, and the friendly police chief who'd been chatting with me pulled his gun and aimed it at my head. As twelve other cops jumped out of their cruisers and surrounded me, all with their guns drawn, the Chief told his men that I was "reaching for something" then headed for his car. I called out to him not to leave me there surrounded by those twelve guns belonging to men who believed I had just tried to pull a weapon on their boss. He drove away.
During those next few, tense minutes I knew that I was just a finger-twitch away from being shot to death. With some cops yelling for me to show my ID, others yelling to put my hands up, and one in particular with his face inches from mine, literally screaming in my face for me not to "fucking move!" This was the definition of a no win situation.
I knew that if I raised my voice, lowered my eyes, appeared to be too defiant, or especially if I showed any fear, I might not make it back into the house. My infant son was in that house on the corner. Whether or not I saw him again depended on what happened next.
I calmly refused to reach for my wallet, and asked for someone to check my pockets. Nothing. I must've left my wallet in the house. While one cop stood inches from me, yelling and cursing, telling me exactly what he planned on doing, luckily one of the others actually bothered to look in the car. The tools were there. The keys were in the ignition. The registration with my name was in the glove box.
I almost lost my life that day because someone decided I looked suspicious. Possibly it was one of my nearby neighbors who decided that the only reason a young black man would have his head under the hood of a sports car was to steal it.
Maybe the person who called the cops was just a passerby who didn't even live in my neighborhood, but couldn't imagine that I had a right to be there.
I wasn't wearing a hoodie when I almost lost my life that day, or the 4 other times in my life a cop has held a gun to my head, but I'm wearing one now. I ask you, does it make me look suspicious?