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The Police Bruised my Ego

My Police-Bruised Ego

by Xolani Tembu / 09.07.2009

I am darker in complexion than your average South African; needless to say, I thus have often been mistaken for a Zimbabwean migrant or one of our brothers from the North, owing to my skin tone. Not that there is a skin tone quota that qualifies one to be South African, although you might not know it seeing there already is some form of profiling for darker brothers. Of course, I sound ridiculously prejudiced pointing this out. Again, that is the danger one runs when tackling issues of race and colour in South Africa, particularly with our history of racial oppression and ethnic violence.

I am the first one to applaud the women and men of the armed forces who risk their lives day in and day out to protect the people of this country. The SAPS is often criticized with being too slow to respond to a crisis and potential life-threatening situations. Much like the Department of Home Affairs which has recently been dumped onto the President’s ex-wife, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the SAPS too, are sick and tired of being the world’s laughing stock. South Africans have lost their only free pass into Europe via the United Kingdom. Now, like every other African state, we have to apply for visas to gain entry into the UK. This, owing to the corrupt bungling of our Home Affairs department. We should probably strike for the department to provide visa application fee stipends. But then again, they’d only be paying me back my money. Like any other good citizen, I pay tax.

I drive a Fiat Uno. When you see one of these at night, from a cop’s perspective, I suspect your cop gene starts tingling, particularly when it’s driven by a dark skinned oke like me. In Rondebosch where I live, the SAPS have suddenly tightened their grip and anything that moves around at night is viewed as suspicious. I have on several occasions been stopped and asked to be searched. I’m honest, so I oblige. What gets to me though is the feeling I get. Criminal. Unexpectedly, I feel dirty and
my attitude towards the cops changes. I register at the back of my mind that they are doing their jobs but I can’t help but feel like I am somehow being ill-treated, that somehow my rights may be in the process of being violated. My major concern is how they pick their potential suspects. On these various occasions that I have been stopped and searched, I was in close proximity of other folks of fairer skin but I am always the one singled out for closer inspection. This again sounds racially motivated, I assure you it is not. I am the last person to be prejudiced with all the colours, tribes and languages represented in my own family.

The other night, a week night, I was cruising down the main road and seasoned professionals in that once detested profession in South Africa are behind me. I know they are going to stop me. I take another peak at my rearview mirror just to ensure that it is indeed them. They drive behind me and as I reach my turn, I’m home. They drive past. As I turn and come to a halt, I drive past two suspicious white youths who walk past nonchalantly. Just as I am about to get out to open the gate, the cops turn the corner and stop right beside me.
“Get out of your car please.” One says.
‘I didn’t quite get that,’ I think to myself. So I say, “excuse me?”
Boldly, he repeats his sentence again. At this moment I am thinking to myself, their approach is rather unusual. I thought there are textbooks for such situations, you know, phrases to use when approaching potential suspects. Remember, what separates me from them is what they find when they search me or my car. He steps closer and says I should turn around and put my hands on the car. This is a first, it has never happened to me before. At this point I feel like I’m in an episode of New York Undercover. I oblige. The other cop walks around to inspect the car, looking for signs that it’s stolen.
“Turn around and lock your fingers behind your head.” He orders. The breeze, whooshing droplets of rain reassures me that I am awake and in South Africa. He searches me and then the car, in the process orders me to observe what he is doing in case he finds something and I claim he put it there. At the end of the search, he asks me what I do for a living. I tell him I’m a researcher. This seems to shame him as he apologetically points out that there is a lot of drug activity in “this area” and hence the search. My area – right? He just saw an evenly tanned figure in an Uno and his cop radar went haywire. There’s no admitting that though.

I did not expect him to apologize for doing his job. I don’t want him to. I am pleased that they are carrying out their routine stop and search because I want to feel safe day and night. The problem is the little voice that kicks in when it happens to me. How do I deal with the feeling of being approached as a criminal and in turn feel criminally violated. It is humiliating, belittling and shattering to my persona. I am the in-between generation. I was born towards the end of Apartheid South Africa and the beginning of democratic South Africa, thus I have psychological issues with the police, for obvious reasons. I don’t know how to deal with them because I assume that if you are not at the police station to lay a charge, then outside, you are automatically a potential suspect. That is how police law functions. No one is innocent. As I go to bed that night, I am nursing my belittled ego by having cooperated with my emotional molesters. I let them emotionally torment me, turn me around and touch me as they will. I let them look at me as though I was guilty of their suspicions. I wonder in my head, do they rejoice when they make a bust? When they turned around to come and search me, was it with hope and excitement that they would find something and then lock me up? Are cops addicted to the power trip? I wonder.

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RESPONSES (5)
  1. fuck the police says:

    Right about now NWA court is in full effect.
    Judge Dre presiding in the case of NWA versus the police department.
    Prosecuting attourneys are MC Ren Ice Cube and Eazy muthafuckin E.
    Order order order. Ice Cube take the muthafuckin stand.
    Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth
    and nothin but the truth so help your black ass?

    Why don’t you tell everybody what the fuck you gotta say?

    Fuck tha police
    Comin straight from the underground
    Young nigga got it bad cuz I’m brown
    And not the other color so police think
    They have the authority to kill a minority

    Fuck that shit, cuz I ain’t tha one
    For a punk muthafucka with a badge and a gun
    To be beatin on, and throwin in jail
    We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell

    Fuckin with me cuz I’m a teenager
    With a little bit of gold and a pager
    Searchin my car, lookin for the product
    Thinkin every nigga is sellin narcotics

    You’d rather see me in the pen
    Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
    Beat tha police outta shape
    And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
    To tape off the scene of the slaughter
    Still can’t swallow bread and water

    I don’t know if they fags or what
    Search a nigga down and grabbin his nuts
    And on the other hand, without a gun they can’t get none
    But don’t let it be a black and a white one
    Cuz they slam ya down to the street top
    Black police showin out for the white cop

    Ice Cube will swarm
    On any muthafucka in a blue uniform
    Just cuz I’m from the CPT, punk police are afraid of me
    A young nigga on a warpath
    And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath
    Of cops, dyin in LA
    Yo Dre, I got somethin to say

    Fuck the police (4X)

    M. C. Ren, will you please give your testimony to the jury about this fucked up incident.>

    Fuck tha police and Ren said it with authority
    because the niggaz on the street is a majority.
    A gang, is with whoever I’m stepping
    and the motherfuckin’ weapon
    is kept in a stash box, for the so-called law
    wishin’ Ren was a nigga that they never saw

    Lights start flashin behind me
    But they’re scared of a nigga so they mace me to blind me
    But that shit don’t work, I just laugh
    Because it gives em a hint not to step in my path

    To the police I’m sayin fuck you punk
    Readin my rights and shit, it’s all junk
    Pullin out a silly club, so you stand
    With a fake assed badge and a gun in your hand

    But take off the gun so you can see what’s up
    And we’ll go at it punk, I’ma fuck you up

    Make ya think I’m a kick your ass
    But drop your gat, and Ren’s gonna blast
    I’m sneaky as fuck when it comes to crime
    But I’m a smoke em now, and not next time

    Smoke any muthafucka that sweats me
    Or any assho that threatens me
    I’m a sniper with a hell of a scope
    Takin out a cop or two, they can’t cope with me

    The muthafuckin villian that’s mad
    With potential to get bad as fuck
    So I’m a turn it around
    Put in my clip, yo, and this is the sound
    Ya, somethin like that, but it all depends on the size of the gat

    Takin out a police would make my day
    But a nigga like Ren don’t give a fuck to say

    Fuck the police (4X)

    Police, open now. We have a warrant for Eazy-E’s arrest.
    Get down and put your hands up where I can see em.
    Just shut the fuck up and get your muthafuckin ass on the floor.
    [huh?]>

    and tell the jury how you feel abou this bullshit.>

    I’m tired of the muthafuckin jackin
    Sweatin my gang while I’m chillin in the shackin
    Shining tha light in my face, and for what
    Maybe it’s because I kick so much butt

    I kick ass, or maybe cuz I blast
    On a stupid assed nigga when I’m playin with the trigga
    Of any Uzi or an AK
    Cuz the police always got somethin stupid to say

    They put up my picture with silence
    Cuz my identity by itself causes violence
    The E with the criminal behavior
    Yeah, I’m a gansta, but still I got flavor

    Without a gun and a badge, what do ya got?
    A sucka in a uniform waitin to get shot,
    By me, or another nigga.
    and with a gat it don’t matter if he’s smarter or bigger
    [MC Ren: Sidle him, kid, he’s from the old school, fool]

    And as you all know, E’s here to rule
    Whenever I’m rollin, keep lookin in the mirror
    And there’s no cue, yo, so I can hear a
    Dumb muthafucka with a gun

    And if I’m rollin off the 8, he’ll be tha one
    That I take out, and then get away
    And while I’m drivin off laughin
    This is what I’ll say

    Fuck the police (4X)

    The jury has found you guilty of bein a redneck,
    whitebread, chickenshit muthafucka.
    Wait, that’s a lie. That’s a goddamn lie.
    I want justice! I want justice!
    Fuck you, you black muthafucka!>

    Fuck the police (3X)

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  2. P-nice says:

    Couldn’t you have just found one line from the song to get your point across?

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  3. Nathan Zeno says:

    I think

    (X4)

    would have done nicely.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    The evenly untanned white women over 50 are being targeted too. I was harassed by our honorable hard-working men in blue at 8.30pm one winters evening in the unlit suburb streets in Johannesburg. After taunting and verbally abusing me for 1/2 hour they threw my drivers licence on the ground under my car and shouted at me to pick it up and drive on. My ‘crime’? I was driving my polo GTi slowly looking for a street sign to tell me the name of the road I was in.
    Good stuff SAPS!

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  5. Jason Godfrey says:

    Xolani,
    You capture the difficulties of being black in SA very well. I’d like to use this in class with my South African unit I’m putting together. Thanks. Drop me a line soon and let me know how you’re faring.

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