With what is currently going on in our country since the murder of George Floyd, I felt like sharing a story that happened to me and a friend of mine.
Like most white Americans, I have not experienced racial profiling or worried about the police except for maybe when I’ve been speeding. I’ve never seen a person of another race clutch their purse or lock their doors because I’m approaching, but I did witness something at a high school football game that helped me understand a little better.
Two years ago, a black friend of mine rode with me to the Statesboro football game at Ware County in Waycross. When the game was over, I still had to do interviews and I told him to go to the car and I’d be there shortly. We parked on the visitors side behind the visitors stands, which is a very small parking lot kind of tucked away.
There is a big fence separating the parking lot from the walkway inside and from a distance I saw law enforcement officers near my car. I was afraid I may have had a flat tire and they were helping my friend out. When I got closer I could see three sheriff’s deputies standing next to my friend who had his hands over his head and was telling me to please hurry up.
I got there as things were escalating and he was trying to tell them that I was the owner of the car and that we were not smoking marijuana. The officers told him to shut up and asked me if it was my car. I told them it was. They said they suspected marijuana was in the car and said they had smelled it when my friend walked up to the car, so they came to him to question him.
They said he told them he was waiting for me and had no idea what they were talking about. When he tried to talk, they once again told him to shut up and asked me why I didn’t accompany him to the car and why I hadn't given him my keys.
I told them I work for the newspaper in Statesboro and that I had just forgotten to give him my keys. My friend is my age and all three officers were 15-20 years younger than us, and I just didn’t understand the way they were talking to him so disrespectfully, especially since he had done nothing wrong, and he was telling them the truth.
I told them there was no marijuana anywhere in my car and they could search it if they’d like. They then told me: “No, just hurry up and get your asses back to Statesboro.”
I didn’t take down their badge numbers, and to be honest I was starting to shake and even though I was almost out of gas, I made sure to get out of Ware County before stopping.
I can’t imagine what might have happened to my friend if I hadn’t shown up as quickly as I did. We were the only ones around and there was no way I was even thinking about getting my phone or camera out to record them. I don’t regret trying to get us out of there quickly and safely, but upon reflecting back, I wish I would have at least called in and reported it regardless of whether that would have changed anything or not.
My friend called his wife on the way home and she was happy he was safe, but asked him why he didn’t get their names, and he said to her “All I was thinking about is getting home safely.”
I have never experienced an incident like this one in Ware County before or since, and hopefully this was an isolated incident.
I have a lot of good friends that work or have worked at Ware County High school and haven’t heard too many stories like this, but it really opened my eyes to the reality of being black in America first hand.
I have plenty of friends in local law enforcement that I know are good people, and I hate to see them lumped in because of a few bad ones, but I hope and pray law enforcement officers will speak up more if they see racism on the force. If there are 10 racist officers and 100 good ones, and the 100 good ones don’t speak up, then there are 110 bad officers on the force.
Josh Aubrey is the prep sports writer, and video journalist for the Statesboro Herald.