After recognizing that he “can’t speak of the deep-rooted and justified fear” that the Black community feels toward police officers, Late Night host Seth Meyers turned it over to writer Amber Ruffin, who shared one of her first encounters with an aggressive cop.
In the video embedded above, Ruffin recalled getting behind the wheel during morning rush hour when she was a teenager, not long after she had learned to drive. Though she was initially too nervous to go as fast as the drivers around her, all of whom were speeding, Ruffin eventually put on a Busta Rhymes song to calm herself and opted to drive five miles per hour above the speed limit.
Ruffin then hit a speed trap, and though she wasn’t the only driver moving fast, she said a nearby cop spotted her and demanded she pull over.
“Out of these tens of cars, he sees a young Black person driving a purple car, blasting rap music, and he chooses me,” Ruffin said. “And he’s screaming at me. He is shouting as if I have murdered someone. On a scale of one to 10, he is at a 27.”
Ruffin became more somber as she remembered thinking the cop might end her life. “I think, ‘This is how I die. This man is going to kill me,'” she continued. “I start crying. I am bawling because I am 100 percent sure this man is going to drag me out of my car, beat me to death and tomorrow on the news, everyone will be like, ‘She didn’t seem angry, but who knows?'”
Upon seeing Ruffin crying in the driver’s seat, however, the cop quickly changed his demeanor and calmly asked for her ID before letting her go without a warning. (“Once he saw a teenage girl, shouting was no longer fun,” she noted.)
Ruffin closed by emphasizing this was not her only nerve-wracking encounter with police officers. In other instances, “the cops have pulled a gun on me. The cops have followed me to my own home. And every Black person I know has a few stories like that. Many have more than a few.”
“Black people leave the house every day knowing that at any time, we could get murdered by the police. It’s a lot,” she concluded. “Sometimes, when you see news footage like we have seen the past week, and you hear people chalking it up to a few bad apples instead of how corrupt an entire system is, it becomes too much. I wanted to end this with something hopeful to provide some comfort, but maybe it’s time to get uncomfortable.”
Watch Ruffin’s full retelling above.