“Justifiable” Stop & Search Before Tyler Perry: One Man’s Harrowing Story Of Racial Profiling

Editor’s Note: After a lengthy investigation, Atlanta police announced last week that officers who stopped and interrogated entertainment mogul Tyler Perry in February were “justified” because the filmmaker’s white Porsche matched the description of a a stolen vehicle—a decision that sparked outrage among black and Latino citizens who know all-too-well that “justifiable” stops and searches are nothing more than state-sanctioned racial profiling. Horror stories about “justifiable” stops abound. Today, my friend, artist Rod Perez, shares his own brush with a “justifiable stop” in New York City.


Finally, it was Saturday.
I picked up a nice pair of slacks to go with my ensemble…
I slip into my role as the devil behind the smile, (you know to go with what I’m wearing)…
I dab on some fresh cologne that she’s crazy over, but, to be honest, I can’t stand. But hey, so what? It is on tonight.
I pass by every mirror before I go, just so I can hear them say, “Hot Damn that girl is in trouble!”
The word smooth can’t come close to the way I feel…

Heading out of the lobby, the usual suspects are lined up talking smack,
until I pass by.
Each girl sit’n on the hood of a car takes a turn to look me over
I look back and give them a steely glare but I’m cheez’n inside
I wish I can turn ghost so that I can hear my revue…
That’s alright though; there is just one girl I’m impressing tonight.

I wait for the best cab that Broadway has to offer
(After all, it has to go with what I’m wearing)…
My chauffeur looks in his rear view:
“Where to chief?”
“Downtown,” I say.
“Special night?”
I play it off: “Naw man, I’m just going to go check out this girl, you know.”
“I hear you bro.” He knows the deal.

My man puts on some music to ease me into the ride…
I lay back, pick off some imaginary lint off my jacket and slacks
And I just start mapping out the next few hours of this night.

Berry lights flash into the car…
Red then white, red then white again…
Short bursts of woop sounds, sirens out…

“Oh man what did this guy do?” I say to my myself.
The man in the tight blue-skin suit has one hand on his power, the other on his scepter…
My driver, in his best impression of a scared immigrant, answers all his questions.

They’re slowing me down on this night?
This can’t be…
I interrupt, “Excuse me officer (in my best impression of an upright citizen—or white folk) I’m running late, can I just go?”
He interrupts: “Shut up, what makes you think you’re going anywhere?”

I didn’t realize half of those questions were about his passenger.
The street lamp signaled a shadowy figure lurking in the back of the car…
It was his partner in crime, gun at the ready…

“Turn around,” he orders.
“Your identification, if you have any”
If I have any? What does this fucker think I am?
As I’m about to reach into my pocket,
images flash before my eyes of…
News clippings of trigger happy cops…
Who needed nothing more than a flinch (or black wallet) to start unloading.
“Your I.D. I’m not going to ask you again.”
“Sir, I will, just let your partner know what I’m going for.”

He analyzes my card to look for any sign of fraud
“Ro-Ro-Rod Roderick Perez?” He was expecting Juansito or Junior to go with my last name.
“That’s right,” I said.
“Where you headed Roderick Perez?” As if we established some sort of camaraderie.
“Downtown (officer dick-less),” I say.
“What business do you have downtown?”
“I’m picking up my date.”
“What, you don’t like the girls up here?”
He means my kind…

He tucked away my I.D. in his shirt pocket. I could see that he wanted to prolong this one man conversation. I could see in his face that he needed this to satisfy his short-comings. That ignorance and fear accompanied him on every beat he walked, including today. Officer friendly wasn’t from around here, but must’ve been told the story of how all the young men in the neighborhood are given their first bag of weed and a 9mm for their 13th birthday.

“Step out of the car, come on let’s go.”
Half scared and full of anger, I do as I’m told.
“Does he look like the guy we’re looking for?”
I went back in my mind and thought about all the struggles our leaders endured to get me to this point. That’s progress.
This is not.

Officer friendly kindly asked that I place my hands on the car,
while he helps spread my legs apart by kicking them.
Thus making sure he gets my shoes nice and scuffed…
“Looking sharp there bro’. So Roderick Perez, what do we do for a living?” he asks as he pats my ass…
Working for a legitimate pharmacy on the corner of 74 street at the time.
I said, “I work for a law firm, officer.”
“Hey, my partner’s daughter is studying to go law school.”
“Really?” I say to myself. Good news for them or me?
“Can I get my I.D back now?”
“You going somewhere?” The one thing his partner says all night and he asks if I’m going somewhere.

Officer friendly sees the stupidity in his partner’s failed attempt to show authority. So to make certain that I wouldn’t get the last laugh, he tells my driver to go on. But before the driver left, the officer wanted to make certain that I paid the man.
The driver and I read each other’s thoughts and realized the injustice given to me and refused my money.
Moments later…
“Stay out of trouble and make certain to take your girlfriend somewhere nice,” was the last thing the offer said.
He hands me my card back and I’m left with no choice but to take what was given to me by officer friendly.

While I headed up the hilly avenues to get back on Broadway
I took a look at my photo I.D.
And I saw a mug shot

I looked at my face and saw the frustration and resentment I had that day while waiting at the DMV
I know that look to be on my face now
It’s my reflection…

I hailed down another cab, any cab this time.
I stepped in and noticed the wrinkles on my clothes that developed over time…
“Where to, chief?”
I look up… my guardian cab driver. “Um, Downtown.”
As he turns the corner
I stop him and say, “Don’t take this street.”

Rod Perez lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


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