False accusation casts racial bias in society


By Mike Thomas, Scene Editor

As a prideful African-American and a proud supporter of black culture, it is disheartening when we accuse one another simply for the way we look. A part of me dies when my oppressor is of my own color.

A frustrating story happened to me the other day on my way home from work.

While walking to the BART station, I decided to use one of the port-a-potties at a park that is on my path to North Berkeley BART station.

As I was done using the bathroom, I heard a knock on the door of the port-a-potty.

As I walk out, to my surprise there are two Berkeley police officers staring at me and a black male behind them.

The black man pointed at me and said, “Yeah, that’s him,” so the police officers command me to sit on the bench.

One of the officer told me earlier that morning someone started a fire in the trash can by the park, and the man accused me of starting it.

As I processed these words in my mind, confusion and anger started to build up. Controlling my emotions, I frustratingly told them it was not me.

I was familiar with one of the cops at the scene because he frequents my store all the time to get a medium-sized coffee.

They asked me a whole range of questions, like, “What am I doing in Berkeley? Where am I going? How long have I been working in this city?” All I was trying to do was go home.

So they proceeded to pat me down without my consent. They then asked me if I had a weapon.

Of course I did not.

One of the officers then asked if I smoked cigarettes and had a lighter on me. I said, “No, I do not smoke cigarettes and yes I do have a lighter on me.” One of the officers said, “Kind of strange that you have a lighter on you, but you don’t smoke.”

So I decided to hold my tongue on that setup question.

I knew that if I would have given the officer a sarcastic remark, it would have brought nothing good.

So as time passed as I was detained, my frustration and anger began to grow.

One of the officers went across the street to talk to my accuser.

The officer I was familiar with told me a story about himself when he was misjudged in the past.

He found his car broken into while in front of his house.

While he was trying to get his stuff out of his car SFPD tackled him and detained him, thinking he was the thief.

He later found out a neighbor had called the police on him.

Who knows? It could have been a made up story, but it did happen to change my perspective on how we quickly judge people.

After his partner came back I was free to go, but what upset me the most is a “brother” accused me of starting a fire at the park, solely based on the way I look.

In the end, the two police officers let me go.

I feel that the only reason I was free to go was because I knew one of the cops, and he could vouch for the fact that I work in Berkeley.

It disappoints me that a fellow black man was so quick to judge me and claim that I was a criminal, just because of the way I look and the color of my skin.

I have love and pride for my people, but hate it when we misjudge each other.

We should show love to each other, not pass judgment.

He probably jumped the gun when he saw me look in the trash can before I used the bathroom.

Or maybe he felt obligated to point out someone as the culprit to make sure he wasn’t accused or suspected of the crime.