Dwayne Latif offers a personal account of the racist harassment which he says he has experienced at the hands of the police.
I feel scrutinised by the police force – and then some. When I leave my house and walk down my road I don’t expect to be hassled for no reason. But the police often address me in a stern tone out of the blue for no reason. Out of me and my white mates it’s always me, why? Because I’m the black one. Whenever I’m with my white friends it’s always me they look at, it’s always me they stop. Do I look like a criminal? If so how would you define what a criminal looks like? I have come to feel that they are against me, that they want to see me fail. They’re not here to support me, they’re here to get me. Get me for what I don’t know – all I know is that they’re messing with my head.
I’ve had enough of this label game. I want out. They’re not my protector, they are my enemy. They are waiting to catch me out, waiting for me to do wrong.
Sometimes I can help thinking: they want me to be bad? Well, I’ll show them just how bad I can be. Then I have to pull myself back on rebelling, but it is so very tempting sometimes. After all, all I want is to be able to walk down East London freely without a cop stroking me up and down.
I’m not a bad guy. My mum’s not well and my priority is to make sure she’s ok. As long as she’s ok I’m good. I have a normal 9-5 at the moment, working in retail. Eventually I want to get into property but until I get that opportunity I’m happy to keep up my retail job, as long as I can support the mumsy.
I try to go about my day positively minding my own business but the police always seem to target me. The other day I was just popping to my local shop with my pal Max to grab my mum some milk when the feds stopped me. “Where you off too?” asked the tall ginger haired officer. “Why”? I responded. The officer told me I was failing to corporate by not answering his questions but I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I noticed my white friend Max playing on his phone happily and undisturbed. I pictured my mum’s distressed face waiting for me to return home. Frustration filling my bones, I told them: “Why do you care where I am going? I haven’t done anything wrong, my mum is waiting on me I need to go!”
I was then told to stand against the brick wall. I felt like a caged dog. Why was I being corned? I was told to stand still with my arms by my side. My friend Max just watched me with pity. I wanted to know why I was receiving this treatment: Why do I have to stand here, what have I done?” I was informed that they were “carrying out a stop and search”. When I asked why, I was told “you were being defensive as you failed to explain where you were going”.
I’ve heard people talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy but I never really believed it until now. They want me to give them a reaction. They want me to be a thug. Maybe that’s exactly what I will be. As I looked down at my clenched fists I felt the officer breathing over me as he patted down my arms then moved on to my legs. I wanted to explode. Water filled my eyes. I felt so angry and victimised. They made me empty out my pockets then asked to see inside my man bag. “Are you not going to search him?” I shouted, pointing at Max. The officers chuckled at me and said not to “feel hard done by”. But I did feel hard done by. So hard done by that I hated them. I was enraged. Was it the colour of my skin? Was it the way I walked? Was it the clothes I wore? Why was I the only one to be searched?
For whatever reason I felt scrutinised and very low inside. I was drowning in self pity. I was in a very self destructive mind frame, a mind frame caused by the British police. I’ve never been involved in anything criminal whatsoever. Shouldn’t the officers help public citizens like me – I’m a good guy? Why am I searched and picked on out of my friends when I’ve done nothing wrong. Maybe this is just something I’ll have to live with. Maybe I will always be looked at and judged. I guess this scenario is one that I have no control over. Maybe I have to accept that I have been born into a race that is judged openly without cause and that I am living in a world were society discriminates and racism exists.
Put yourself in my shoes. Imagine you are a decent, hard working guy who can’t even go to the shop for his mother without being bullied. For this reason I feel pain mixed with resentment towards the police. I am aware they do a great job in protecting the public but they’ve also singled me out on many occasions and interrogated me over nothing. If I was ever in trouble and needed the help of the police I don’t know whether or not I would phone them. Usually they are who you go to when you’re in need. However they’ve made me feel like they are out to get me. Why would I go to my enemy in time of need? If I’m going to be judged anyway and picked on anyway, I might as well do something to be judged for – at least then I wouldn’t be feeling so victimised.
You have no idea how it feels to not even be able to walk to the shop without some white bloke putting you up against a wall and touching you.