“Arthur, Amelia. Get down here. We need to hurry so we’re not late!” Polly shouted to beckon her kids over so that they could leave for school on time.
As they ran down the stairs, the smell of toast filled the air and Arthur exclaimed: “Not toast again mum!”
Polly understood his protest but there wasn’t much that she could do. They had to make do with beans and toast because of their tight budget. Between her job as a primary school teacher and Dave’s as a police officer, there wasn’t much left if you accounted for their savings to move to a bigger house in a better area. Polly couldn’t wait for them to move out of South London. She and Dave had big dreams and as soon as he was promoted, things were sure to get better.
So she ruffled Arthur’s hair and said: “Yes mister, toast it is. Now eat up. We’ve got to leave soon.”
Minutes later, Dave joined his family in the kitchen. He stood by the counter and made a cup of instant coffee. They were cutting down their costs, so couldn’t splurge on a coffee maker. He finished his cup in several gulps and bit into a slice of toast as he made way to the front door.
“I hope you’ll be home early tonight so you could read to the kids before they go to bed” Polly said.
“I can’t say darling, you know I can’t tell what might happen today. That’s my job. I’m a defender of the people” He said, beating on his chest in exaggeration as he made faces at his children.
They giggled, ran up to him and hugged his legs. They weren’t that tall after all. Mrs Morgan walked up to her husband and joined in the embrace. It felt good being in a family unit. When she was a young girl, she had dreamt of one day having her own family and there they were- her own flesh and blood. It felt good, life could only get better.
Constable Morgan took the underground tube and headed to the Station. He hoped for an uneventful day so he could get home early. He had missed too many bedtimes already and had to promise to make it up on the weekend.
In the locker room, Dave changed into his uniform and checked to make sure his side arm was loaded and serviceable and that his flash light had fresh batteries. He turned around sharply when he heard his co- workers talking about an incident that happened weeks earlier. Dave despised the language they often used. He felt it was derogatory and mostly rude. He knew they were good men but the way they joked about ethnic minority people caused him many embarrassments and he always tried to dissociate himself whenever they started their banter. He couldn’t care for any of it. His aim was to do his job and get promoted to a higher rank. He couldn’t afford to be side tracked from his goal. Their petty comments were often misinformed and too stereotypical that he wondered how grown men couldn’t decipher this for themselves.
“Dave I hear you and Ali have been assigned to the BOLO (Be On the Look Outs) area. Good luck with the Paki, better yet the Blacks. You know what Brixton is like” One of the guys said and laughed as he strode away.
Dave didn’t get a chance to respond and Ali had just come in so he remained quiet. He hoped Ali hadn’t heard the racist jab. He sometimes wondered if it was best for Ali to leave the force and get a different job where he wasn’t indirectly ridiculed or the centre of unwanted attention for anything ethnic minority related. Dave knew that he would never fully understand what it was like to be Ali but he knew that it couldn’t be a pleasant experience.
“Come on man, let’s go. I’m taking the first drive” Ali said leading the way to their patrol vehicle.
William walked into his room to find his mum sitting on his bed.
“Mum what are you doing, why are you in my room?” He said in a panic.
“Are you really asking me that? It’s my house. I can do whatever I please. Now young boy, tell me, what is this?” His mother shouted at him.
“God mum, you never should have looked through my drawers. What is it?” He replied.
“William Boateng you will not kill me before my time! What is this I asked? Since when did you start smoking all these grass or what do they call it these days?” Thelma screamed at her son.
“Mum it’s not even mine. Gosh you make a big deal out of everything and it is called weed” He replied nonchalantly.
“Are you talking to me like that? I will not condone this nonsense from you. I don’t want to see you hanging around with those hoodlums with no home training that you call friends. What sort of friend gives you drugs to keep or are you smoking it too?” Thelma asked relentlessly.
“Mum mum, I am getting good grades innit? And I’ve applied to Matilda’s University. I know what I am doing just leave it” William replied.
“Eh this boy I can see you’ve grown wings. Once your father gets back, he would hear of this!” She said with finality and got up.
William grabbed his backpack on the floor and stormed out before she could nag some more.
“Make sure you don’t get back late. I don’t want to hear you went off with those useless friends of yours. You hear me?” She shouted as he paced away.
In the hallway, William stumbled into his two younger siblings who had left their breakfast in the kitchen to eavesdrop. He looked at them, shrugged and banged the door after him.
College felt long as usual to William. He sat in his classes; however he was uninterested in what the teachers had to say. He couldn’t wait to get out of London. There were only a couple of months more before his A Level exams and graduation. He wanted a fresh start, so he had chosen University of Manchester as his first choice and University of Birmingham as his second to study Business and Finance. He would be joining his older sister Matilda up north and he was anticipating the new beginning. Life in London wasn’t too bad. Their family was close knit and although his parents did as much to provide for all their needs, it wasn’t always enough. He hoped he could support them one day when he got a good paying job. He had ambitions but kept quiet about them. Growing up he had learnt that a boy like him couldn’t be flamboyant in sharing his dreams, lest it be crushed. His mother believed in him and his father always pushed him to do better than he had. His father constantly questioned him whenever he slacked at school or got into trouble: ‘William do you want a life like mine- working long hours at a factory, day in day out? No? Then you better read your books and choose your friends wisely. Let it be heard. Don’t say I didn’t try my best as a father.’
After his last lecture, William waited in front of the college gates for his friends. There were four of them- three boys and a girl. It was quite unusual but she was one of the crew and was often called a ‘tomboy’ which she didn’t mind. They had all been friends since secondary school and had applied to the same Sixth form college. However, only three of them wanted to further their education. Mimi wanted to work her way up in retail after college and perhaps get married and have children. James was still unsure about his plans but it definitely wasn’t going to entail going to University. Ade couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but London so applied only to London Universities. Simon on the other hand had also applied to Manchester. William wished he hadn’t because he knew it was an attempt to tag along with him. He secretly hoped Simon wouldn’t get the grades needed and knew it was highly unlikely anyway. He wanted a clean slate when he went to University and as much as he loved hanging out with his friends, he didn’t want the extra baggage Simon would bring.
“Let’s go to mine and chill. My mum won’t be home till late” James offered.
William told them he couldn’t stay long because he had got into a fight with his mum that morning and she expected him to be home early.
“Since when did you become a Mama’s boy Will?” Simon teased.
“You’re the one to talk! She found your stash in my room. Man, I can’t keep it for you anymore” William responded haughtily.
“Whatever man, you’re bare jokes let’s go and jam!”
They all got on the bus and headed over to James’ and had the house to themselves. James got out a bottle of alcohol he hid underneath his bed and passed cups around. While he went to get coke from the fridge, Simon proceeded to roll the weed William had handed back to him. They were there for hours chatting, drinking and smoking in turns. Only William refused to smoke that night and he was teased even more by his mates.
“You’re a pussy man. Since when did your mum’s rant stop you from doing anything?” Ade joined in.
William shrugged and told them he had to leave. Mimi and Simon lived in his neighbourhood so joined him. By this time it was already dark outside and the temperature had dropped even lower.
“Gheez it’s damn cold bruv, we’ve got to walk fast” Mimi lamented and quickened her pace.
Both boys followed suit and walked side by side. As they got to the intersection where William was to turn off, Simon stopped him.
“You’ve got to take the rest of this back with you though. You know I can’t take this home” He quipped.
“Hold up. I’m not taking this home. No way man” William replied.
Simon ignored William’s protest and quickly pushed the bag of weed into his jeans pocket.
“I’m having none of this Simon, take your shit man!” William shouted at him and advanced to where he stood.
Simon laughed and moved away. William got annoyed and made to chase after him. However, Simon still saw it as a joke and began to run back towards where they had just come from. William got even more pissed and pursued. Simon continued running, past the corner shop and past the man they had just seen waiting for his colleague inside. William continued chasing his friend unaware of his surroundings. He had to return the weed, there was no way he was taking it back home with him.
Constable Morgan saw the two boys he had seen earlier again. This time, the Black boy was chasing the White boy and he seemed very angry.
“Ali I’m going to check on this JDLR (Just Don’t Look Right) quickly. Meet me as soon as you’re done” He shouted into the store and ran after the boys.
“There I got you!” William shouted victoriously and dipped his hand into his pocket.
Mimi had finally caught up to Simon and William. She was out of breath and wheezing. Another man in police uniform wasn’t far behind her. She could feel the stillness of the night air. It seemed like all of a sudden they were transported to a graveyard- it was that silent. You could have heard a pin drop. Then suddenly she heard a cry: “What have you done?!”
She wasn’t sure whom it came from but her scream matched it with similar ferocity. She broke down on the floor and started to scream. She could see blood slowly making its way from underneath his body. ‘Is this a dream? What just happened?’ She thought as the police officer beside her moved forward and started barking orders.
‘What was he doing?’ She wondered, then realised he was calling for help over his radio. The first police man bent over and picked up something from the floor. She also realised it was the bag of weed. Mimi was livid, she couldn’t control her anger. Something wasn’t right. She looked over where the body lay and saw Simon. He was crouched on the floor, in a daze with his hands on his head shouting repeatedly: “What have you done.”
He seemed to be in a state of shock. They all were. She raised her eyes and saw the officer. He had a name plate. It read Morgan. Mimi was livid.
“Fuck you Morgan, fuck you man” She thundered and ran towards him with fisted palms. She hit him with a series of fluttery punches before she was dragged away by the other officer.
“You need to clear this area, I have to cordon it off” Ali said even as he looked at Dave with a confused glance.
He didn’t still understand what had just happened. One minute he was buying bottled water at the corner shop, the next he was staring at a bloodied teenager. He hadn’t expected their shift to end like that. It had been almost time for them to go home.
The ambulance arrived and William’s unconscious body was finally taken away. Mimi sat in front with the driver while the other paramedic attended to William at the back. Simon finally came out of shock but was at first disorientated. Afterwards, he realised that he had to inform the Boateng’s of what had just happened. He got up and ran all the way to Shipman Street.
After waiting for an hour in the emergency ward, the Boateng’s were finally allowed to see William, although his situation was still critical. Thelma dried her eyes as she walked in with her daughters- Cecilia 15 years and Mary 12 years old. Her husband had unusually returned from work early that day and walked in behind them. It was a scene like no other as they all crowded into the room with Mimi and Simon in tow. They all wished he would stir or show some sign of life but it was futile. He was still in a coma and unresponsive.
‘God why? Maybe I shouldn’t have been too hard on him this morning’ Thelma thought as fresh tears streamed down her face. ‘Why my son? Maybe I should have been home more often’ Mr Boateng was also thinking; but for all the changes or modifications they both envisioned, they couldn’t escape the reality that their son was lying in a hospital in a coma, devoid of any signs of life.
Simon stood to the side in silence while Mimi hung to him still crying. Then they all heard it but didn’t quite believe it.
It was the flat line.
“Daddy, daddy. Amelia dad is back, yay!” Arthur screamed as he saw his father standing at their bedroom door.
Polly turned around to face her husband. Her blonde hair caught in the lamp light. ‘God, I love my family’ Dave thought and choked back the tears in his throat. He moved forward and picked up the book Polly had been reading to their children. She strode off and left him to it. Having their father read bedtime stories to them was their treat; she was going to let them savour in it because there were just few nights like these.
Polly was actually surprised that Dave was home early but she was glad. Thirty minutes later, he joined her in the living room where she was watching her favourite soap- EastEnders.
“Darling you’re back early today. An uneventful day?” She asked as he sat close and snuggled up to her.
“On the contrary” He replied.
Although only fleeting, Polly saw the shadow that ran quickly across his face and sat up. She inquired more about what had happened on his patrol and he told her.
“That’s why I’m home early. My boss said I needed a break to clear my head after the incident”
“Honey, poor you. What is wrong with those Black people? Why are they so prone to criminality? I tell you, we have to move out of this area” She said and cradled him in her arms.
“I am so sad; he was just a teenager you know. Why can’t their parents keep them off the streets? But don’t worry about any of it. I’ve been told that it is highly likely to be classified as a lawful shooting. He had drugs on him you know. He probably was a drug dealer or something. I was just doing my job” Dave added.
“At just seventeen? The Black community really need to deal with their issues and errant children” Polly sighed.
“I know love. It really scars my heart, especially the young ones. That’s why I love my job. I hope I can make an impact in the society.”
They kissed and Polly turned up the volume. On TV, Kat and Zoe were having a dramatic showdown at the local pub. The couple laughed.
Life went on…
In 2004, Eberhardt and colleagues used White male participants to investigate whether subliminally priming people with Black or White faces would reduce the time taken for them to identify crime relevant objects (e.g. Knife, gun). They found that people who were primed with Black faces were quicker in recognising the criminal objects than those who were primed with White faces. They concluded that ‘this demonstrates that stereotypic associations have the power to alter the threshold at which real-world objects will be detected.” Also, they tested police officers and found that the more Black a face the more criminal they perceived them to be.
In another study by Plant & Peruche (2005), they investigated the decision for police officers to shoot Black and White criminal suspects. They found that on initial exposure to the test, the Police officers were more likely to mistakenly shoot unarmed Black suspects compared to unarmed White suspects.