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I'm Black and 'Well-Behaved,' but I'm Still Mike Brown

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MICHAEL BROWN
ASSOCIATED PRESS

I'm saddened but not surprised by the silence of so many of my non-black friends about what's happening in Ferguson, Missouri.

I've seen you pour ice water on your heads for a good cause. I've seen you drape yourselves in flags in solidarity of your own. I've seen you walk and run to raise money. But now you lie silent.

I get it: You don't get it. How could you? You don't know what it's like to be black in this country. You may even truly believe that these victims are at fault.

If only he had complied....

He smoked, he drank, he stole....

He was "bad."

Here's what I say:

I grew up in Westfield, New Jersey, a predominately white town. There were literally three black kids in my eighth-grade class. I took honors classes. I don't drink or smoke, and I rarely curse. I have both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, and now I spend my professional life giving back to my community.

I do all the "right" things at the right times, but Mike Brown's story is still my story.

I can remember going into Baron's Drug Store in downtown Westfield at 11 years old and being followed and asked to leave because we black people "steal."

I can remember being stopped and detained by the police near the Westfield train station at age 13 because "someone" had told the cops that my friends and I had been in a fight up the street and needed to be identified by the "witness," which was crazy, because how could I have been in a fight with the very girls I was walking and laughing with? I wasn't allowed to leave until the "witness" confirmed that it wasn't us. (All of us were black.)

I can remember being attacked and called the "N" word while working at Bally in Clark, New Jersey, at age 19, all because I'd offered to watch a man's children while he worked out, so that they wouldn't get hurt on the machines.

I can remember being justifiably stopped by the police last year when a friend made a U-turn because we were lost, but then having our car illegally searched as a result and also seeing my two friends, both black males, pat down in the middle of the street. Apparently there had been a robbery, but is that a reason to violate our civil rights? Once we proved that we weren't involved, we were allowed to leave. We didn't even get a ticket for the U-turn, but I would have preferred that. At least that was justifiable.

I hate the fact that people pretend that if you're black and keep out of trouble and do the "right" things, you'll be protected. That's a lie! I've never been in trouble, yet I'm almost always afraid of law enforcement. I've seen too many things to feel safe. I know that I might not be offered the same protection.

And as bad as it is for me, at least I'm a woman. It's many times worse for black men. I've seen friends ordered to the ground while I chatted with them outside. I've seen multiple police cars stop them in front of my house in Westfield as they dropped me off. I've seen police yell at my father and tell him to go away after a car accident, even after the other driver admitted that the accident was their fault.

I wish people would stop pretending that if only these men were "better-behaved," things would be different. So many of my non-black friends in Westfield drank, smoke, experimented with drugs and did a host of other things, yet they lived to see another day.

Why aren't we allowed to live? Why is it that once our lives are taken, our mistakes are used as a reason to justify our killing?