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When the Cop Thought I Was a Prostitute

I was a star player on my high school basketball team. This particular game I did really well and I normally would take forever to get dressed afterwards in the locker room. I decided to take the train with my friends. Since I wore combat boots (40 eyelets) it usually took me a while to get dressed after every game. I knew my teammates wanted to leave. It was getting late, so I threw my clothes on and headed to the train station with my teammates. We celebrated our victory, then said our goodbyes as I hoped off the train. To complete my journey, I needed to take the train on the other side, so I switched trains at Dekalb Ave. I was still buzzing – elated with our WIN! Since my Doc Martens were not tied (remember, 40 eyelets), I decided to tie them when I reached the top of the steps. lugging my equipment bag. By the time I reached the top of the train steps, I was just tired. One boot at a time, I laced them up – all the way to my calves. At the corner of my eye, I saw a cop staring at me. I thought to myself, “Is he gonna help?” I chuckled under my breath. I also thought the he would want to know who I played (you know – athletes can spot each other). When he walked over to me, he gave me one of the most awkward looks. I asked him what was up. He responded, “I wanted to make sure you were not prostituting.” I responded,” I just came from playing ball.” He then said, “Are you sure? – Just checking.” I thought to myself, “What a dumbass.” – I also decided that he was very young and stupid; and no one was gonna mess with my high – because we won tonight!

Horrified and confused

When I was 13 years old, I started having tremendous stomach pains. My mom took me to the emergency room, where I was barraged with questions about my sexual history (I was a virgin). They gave me an ultrasound, and they pulled my mom outside of the room to tell her that I had something “similar” to pregnancy. Huh? I think they meant they thought I was having an ectopic pregnancy or something like that. Of course, I was horrified and confused. It turned out, I had appendicitis. My appendix ended up rupturing and I was in the hospital for a week.

My daughter felt unsafe

My nine year old daughter is African American. She is enrolled in the public school system gifted program. During school lunch one day, she and a white female student were assaulted by a white boy. A school official called me after school to inform me that my daughter was punched in the stomach, kneed in the stomach and hit on her head. My daughter reported that her head was violently pushed against the face of the white female student. Sadly, the white girl had a swollen eye as a result of the incident. The white student was sent to the school nurse for medical evaluation; however, my daughter was sent back to class alongside her attacker. When I asked why I was not contacted at the time of the incident and why my daughter was not also evaluated by the school nurse, I was told that she was not crying that much and seemed to be ok. The boy was also allowed to return to school the following day. Even more discomforting, my daughter did not receive the emotional support necessary to process this type of assault. She felt unsafe for days, nervous and afraid of what could happen to her if she returned to school. Upon my request to have a meeting with school officials, the incident was minimized and I was told that it was a simple case of kids pushing and shoving in the line. Imagine the dissatisfaction and disbelief that I felt to learn that the school system would allow this type of treatment of any child, regardless of her race.

My child has feelings

Since pre-k, my biracial daughter has been adultified with adult skill sets applied to her normal childhood behaviors and differences and nefarious intentionality ascribed to her behaviors. She is not afforded the presumption of childhood innocence or the right to the childhood developmental expectations. She has repeatedly been removed from her classroom, received lunchroom and recess punishment, pathologized (recommended for counseling 1x/week for crying in kindergarten, and suspended several times for merely crying in class). She was accused and investigated in 1st grade for bullying and vandalism because parents in our school view her as “a bit of a mean girl,” “a ring leader, “aggressive,” “hostile” and having “something wrong” with her. Parents have described her as smart and calculating … at 6! When incidents have happened to her, they are underreported or misreported, minimized as not being all that hurtful or problematic. My child has feelings, does feel pain, and deserves to be valued and cared for as do all children.

Hypersexualization Can Affect Health Care Experiences

When I was 19, I decided it was time to go to the OBGYN for the first time. I had lost my virginity to my boyfriend and wanted to get on birth control. The doctor was an older white man. He came into the room and started asking me questions about my sexual history. What was striking and insulting, was that he asked in very assuming ways. He asked. “So, you’ve had 4 or 5 sexual partners, or more?” I told him I had only ever been with one man. Then he asked, “So, then you’ve been active for, what, 5 or 6 years?” I was shocked and angry. I replied, “No. I didn’t start having sex at 13 years old. I just lost my virginity a month ago.” To which he responded, “Hmmm.” I left feeling terrible at all of his assumptions about my sexuality.

But He Came Up to Me

I don’t really remember how old I was but it was in elementary school. All the boys & girls were being ‘fresh’ as most boys & girls do around that time. I remember a boy approaching me in class to be what flirtatious was at that age and the teacher yelled at me. The boy was black as well. I remember telling her, “But he came up to me” and I remember her response being something along the lines of I invited him to talk to me for being playful with him. The other girls in the class, who were white or Hispanic, would sit on laps and kiss cheeks but I was just sitting at my desk.

Black Girl, Singled Out

One time in 6th grade at a pool party at my affluent White friend’s house (where I was the only Black person), my friends and I were in the hot tub with our “crushes”. Meanwhile we did not know that all of the moms (my mom was not present) were in the kitchen watching us. The boys asked my friends and I to sit on their laps. At that age we had no idea about sex! We just knew we thought they were cute and liked them and didn’t want to jeopardize them liking us back. So we agreed to sit on their laps. All of my friends, except one (none of the boys were into her) sat on a boy’s lap, but shortly after, all of the moms came outside and asked me to come into the kitchen with them to talk. During this conversation they accused me of being the ring leader and said they were worried about me! Even though all of the other girls did the exact same thing. I was singled out and they threatened to tell me parents what I did. No one else faced any consequences. After the meeting in the kitchen I went back to the party and cried. I felt crushed and thoroughly embarrassed. I realized that day that my White friends and their parents saw me differently. My heart was broken.

Officer I Live Here

I couldn’t have been more than 13 years old. While I had a door key, it was rare that my grandmother wasn’t home when I came home from school. This particular day, she wasn’t home. We had an alarm system that she would set and I just needed to punch in the code. It gave you a certain amount of time to put the code in before it would signal the police. So for whatever reason I didn’t put the code in in time. Next thing I know my house is surrounded by police. Now it’s right after school and I’m still in my private school uniform- jumper, shirt with the Peter Pan collar, knee highs. And my hair was always in pigtails, so there is no way I looked like an adult. I go out and explain to the police officer that I live here and everything is ok. But he was convinced that I was lying. Asked for ID, which I didn’t have cause I was like 12! Then asked if I had any mail with my name on it. Once again I didn’t have cause I was in middle school and why would I have mail? Took one of my neighbors coming out and confirming that I did indeed live there. That was over 20 years ago. I still remember the cops face.