When I was in elementary school, I stole something.
I was in a chain drug store, looking at candy. I don’t know where my mom was. I saw Hubba Bubba gum tape. The sticker on the front was ripped and the gum inside was missing. Somebody had already stolen the gum, it was probably long gone. It made sense to me at the time that it wasn’t a big deal if I took the container. I wanted to use it to keep my pennies or Barbie shoes in or something. Me, my brother, and sister liked keeping spare change in empty candy containers.
This is how I learned about surveillance cameras—they saw me. These two white police officers came up to me. They took the gum container and started berating me. The white clerk said I was never allowed to come into the store again.
I was crying now because I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong but I knew I was in trouble. I rode in the back sans handcuffs and the police took me home to my apartment just down the street where my mom, sister, and brother were waiting. They talked to my mother like she was a child and told her next time I’d be arrested.
Over a fucking empty bubble gum container that nobody was going to buy anyway.
All because I was a Black child with messy kinky hair who wanted something to put her pennies in.