Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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In My Words by Carlton Davis
Bucs cornerback and Social Justice Program Board Member Carlton Davis pens essay about his experience with racial injustice. 
Jun 10, 2020

I was taught to be on your best behavior when an officer is stopping you. I was taught not to make any sudden movements. Taught never to reach for your phone. Taught not to speak out of turn. It's really, how can I say this? It's like a little kid treatment where you have to be on your best behavior and it's so tense. You can just feel the intensity in the air. When you're being stopped, the first thing a cop sees is a black man and once they see that, anything they do is to intimidate you. For what reasons? I don't know. I don't know what they experienced or what happened, but I've been stopped by so many cops. And it honestly started when I started driving.

I can't say I've never ran into a good cop, but I can say that every time I got stopped, for one made up traffic reason or another, I felt them trying to intimidate me through orders, through tone of voice. It was constant threats of you could go to jail for this, I could take you to jail for this, and it's like uh, why are you mentioning taking me to jail if I've done nothing wrong? You start to really feel the oppression there because you're constantly being treated as if you're a criminal. And you're not a criminal. You're probably so far from a criminal but they wouldn't realize it. They don't know anything about your background. But they feel like you are a criminal based on the color of your skin tone or physical features. It's difficult to have to deal with that every time you see a cop, hear sirens, see lights flash. You think it's for you every time. It's just being on high alert.

That's what being black is in America.

As far as police officers go, it's being alert every time they're around rather than feeling relaxed.

There was one particular time where it hit me hard. I was in high school and we were driving home from school; me, my brother and two or three of our friends. We were pulled over by the cops and as soon as we were pulled over, we were bum-rushed with guns to our faces. I was maybe 14, 15 at the time. It was just like guns in our faces and we had done nothing wrong. It was the fact that they had seen kids in the car and said that the car looked like a car that was involved in a crime. We never got any more information besides that about why we were pulled over and almost… what would have happened if we felt startled and made a sudden movement? The trigger could have been pulled, you know what I mean? It would have been another case of the police officer just saying, 'I was fearing for my life' because you moved. I feel like when the world comes to that and you have to walk on eggshells around your own community, in your own comfort zone, that's when people start to feel frustrated and people start to revolt. There's riots and uprising because of the lack of voice that the people have, you know?

Racism still exists. It's about not liking someone solely for the color of their skin, and it's being carried out in the form of police brutality.

It kind of became a natural thing where if I see an officer my attention immediately goes there because I know at some point they can stop me for any reason when I'm not speeding, I'm not switching lanes, I'm not recklessly driving, I'm not intoxicated or anything. I just feel like I'm on alert when I see a cop. It's proof in itself, racial profiling is done way too much. That's definitely a part of racism.

And a lot of what the problem is, is just being unaware of what the problem is.

What's going on right now in this world is not the fact that we want everybody to love each other and like each other. That's for an ideal world. That can't ever be possible. There are plenty of reasons why people don't like each other or disagree, whether it's personal or business related, but when it comes to not liking somebody for the color of their skin – and not even stopping there – but killing somebody for the color of their skin, that's when it's gone overboard. That's when it alerts not just the black community but the whole world because it's something so serious as life or death. When I'm being stopped by a cop, that's what comes in my mind. These are the people that are supposed to serve us, that we pay through our tax dollars, these are the people that swear an oath to protect and serve the citizens of their city.

And listen. My mom is a correctional officer. We grew up with her telling us stories about what she's gone through in the jail house or what she's seen from inmates. She made sure that we did understand that there are people out there of our same color that are criminals. There are black people that are criminals. There are white people that are criminals. She's told us that she has gotten into a fight with an inmate before because of them stepping out of line and she's had to defend herself. So, I do understand officers wanting to protect themselves. I do. But it's not the same in every case as far as stereotyping and racial profiling. I feel like they're using their power to their advantage and really crippling the system by doing that.

So, what do we do now?

I think the next step in erasing racism is educating everyone on what's been going on in our country. Educate yourselves for your own benefit so you can make logical decisions in your everyday life. I feel like if you're a citizen in this country, then it's your civic duty to understand what's going on now as well as understand everything about your past. The only way to move forward with all this information is to understand how it happened. Then we can understand how to fix it.

The only way we can do that is to educate everyone on black history. Not just the Rosa Parks but the ugly side, too. We can't just ignore what happened for 400+ years. We can't just ignore that any longer because as you can see, it's catching up with us to this present day. I feel like the more we continue to ignore what happened with blacks and whites and not face the truth, we'll be ignorant. And these problems will continue to happen because of the lack of knowledge that we share with each other. I think that would be a step forward for everyone.

The truth about your past will always set you free for your future.

-Carlton Davis

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