I remember when you came to my school. Your shoes were so shiny, and they squeaked when you walked. Your uniform was neat and crisp with its badges and buttons. Your belt shone too. It was so reflective, and it had all these little cases and buckles. I wondered what they were for. Secret compartments were cool. The walky talkie squawked intermittently in unintelligible codes. You towered over us. And your dog was so big, his ears straight up in the air as he sat there still as a statue.
We were seated on the floor, but we all straightened our backs to get a better look as we said in unison, “Good morning, Officer Jones.”
You talked to us about your job, how you like to help people, how you wanted to stop the bad guys, that you were there to help us if we ever needed it. You told some funny stories, and you let us pet your dog. I was a little scared at first, but his hair was soft and he looked at us with sensitive brown eyes. I remember thinking how impressive you and your dog were. I wanted to help people too. I wanted to be like you and have a dog like you and stop bad people too.
As with all things, though, I grew up. When I turned 18, I was 6’4″ and no longer held those illusions of elementary school. I had not thought about your visit to my classroom in years, having long since changed my interests. Sometimes I felt silly for wanting to be a police officer. It’s as with all my peers, white and black. We all go through that phase, don’t we? I want to be a fire fighter. I want to be a police officer. We all want to help. In our innocence, that’s what first-responders represent. But I now no longer entertain those notions.
I am what people perceive me to be, a large black man and for those who don’t know me, maybe I look scary. I still feel like that third grader inside, though. I still would like to pet that dog, and I would still like to stop bad people from doing bad things.
When did I become the bad person, Officer Jones?