I get chills when I see a cop. I’ve never had a physical interaction with a cop, but I feel like there’s always that gaze when they look at me, like, “Who is this brown guy? What is he doing?” I was pulling into the parking lot, and the funny thing is, I didn’t have my headlights on, but we made eye contact, and for some reason I felt like, “oh man, something is going to happen.” We literally stared at each other, and before I could even get out of my car, they had already run my plates. My first name is Louis, and they were like, “ Louis Garcia, right? Your drivers license isn’t in our system.” I said, “Ok.” I wasn’t speaking much because the cop was talking. And then he says, “Do you have a foreign drivers license?” I said, “Foreign? What do you mean foreign?” Cops have asked me for my drivers license before, if they are running something. One time, a cop was pretty nice, and I had forgot to put my sticker on the back of my plate, and he asked, “Do you have an out of province ID?” That was the difference; this guy asked if I was from out of province, the cop at the parking lot asked if I was a foreigner. When I asked, “what do you mean?” he said, “Oh, do you study here?” I said, “Yeah, I go to UVIC.” He asked, “What do you do?” I said, “I’m doing my PhD.” Then the tone kind of changed. I should have told him I was doing a PhD in criminology, he probably would have thought, “Oh crap, he is on to me.” I didn’t say what I was studying; I told him I was doing my doctorate. I said, “Should I change my drivers license, because I know there have been problems with Ontario drivers licenses, because my license is from Ontario?” And he said, “Oh no, there is usually no problem with out of province drivers licenses.” In my head I said, “Ok, so why did you pose it as a foreign drivers license?” I think he just thought that because he saw my face and thought, “who is this brown guy, last name Garcia, first name Louis? He is probably some Mexican.” I’m not even Mexican. Then he said, “Have a good day.” In the end he was nice to me, but throughout he kept grilling me, and I have always had interactions like that where cops just stare at me, and then when we start talking they end up being pretty nice. But, I think if I weren’t to open my mouth, then they would just see this brown body, this person that looks very Latino. When I start speaking they think, “He has a Canadian accent, it’s familiar. He was born here, probably.” Then when I tell them my education, they think, “Ok, he is educated,” so, I fit this role of being familiar enough and comfortable enough. They think, “Ok, you’re not just some foreigner.”
Sometimes when I see a cop or cop car behind me, I always think they are following me. I’ll try to do a couple of maneuvers and left-hand turns, and sometimes they are still following me. I think, “What am I doing wrong?” Then they will drive away, but in my head I think they are probably running my plates, why would they just be following me for that long? Sometimes I think maybe it was a coincidence, but when it happens all of the time, it isn’t too much of a coincidence. I’ve been thinking about it more, and maybe it was just a cop had a bad day, or needed to fill a quota and give someone a ticket, I don’t know. But then, sometimes people miss the fact that you take away the person’s feelings, of what is going through their mind. For a black body or brown body to interact with a cop, let’s say it’s a white cop, to say it’s a one off undermines the fact that the person who is being racialized or got the ticket, still feels either scared or fear. What happens to me is that I get frozen up, I think, “Should I drive faster, drive slower, am I going the right speed?” Sometimes you get this tight feeling in your chest, kind of frozen. In professional settings, if you were not to keep with that professional language, someone could just look at you and think, oh he’s black he just speaks like that, or, he’s brown, obviously he just speaks like that.