Seth Meyers opens with stories from writer Amber Ruffin about scary run-ins with police

We’re not going to have a whole post about Jimmy Fallon’s on air apology for using blackface in a 2000 skit where he played Chris Rock. He opened by saying he loved Chris and that he wasn’t racist, which was not the way to start an apology! Say you’re an idiot and own up to your mistakes, don’t get defensive right away. To be fair, he’s trying, he did do that somewhat and his initial written apology was good. He addressed it and he had a lot of Black people on his show and he listened. In my opinion, Seth Meyers gets it right as a white male talk show host and I want to focus on him instead. He opened on Monday by saying he’s sad about the situation and that he’s not qualified to talk about the “deep-rooted and justified fear African-Americans have when encountered by police.” He then had his writer, Amber Ruffin, tell a story about her first encounter with police. Her story moved me so much I got choked up and wanted to talk about it. Here’s what she said and that video is above. I highly recommend watching it if you can.

I was a teenager, I was brand new to driving… I was in rush hour traffic. Everyone was going over the speed limit. I hate it because I’m new to driving, so I speed up to 45, 5 miles over the speed limit. Everyone is whizzing by me. To make myself feel better I turn on Busta Rhymes and I blast it so that I can calm down. I encounter a speed trap. No one is slowing down [but she's going to slowest]. To my right there is an old white cop standing on the side of the road. Out of these tens of cars he sees a young black person driving a purple car and blasting rap music and he chooses me and he’s screaming at me. He is shouting as if I have murdered someone… He goes ‘pull the call over motherf’r.” I think ‘this is how I die. This man is going to kill me.’ I start crying because I am 100% sure this man is going to beat me to death. He’s shouting, it does not stop. He gets to the door and sees me, a teenage girl [crying]. He drops it and [tells me] it’s ok. His whole demeanor changes.

I have 1,000 stories like this. Cops have pulled a gun on me. Cops have followed me to my own home. Every black person I know has a few stories like that. Black people leave the house every day knowing that, at any time, we could get murdered by the police. 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.

[From Late Night with Seth Meyers]

Then, last night, he opened with another story from Amber about a different encounter she had with police. She was skipping toward a friend in Chicago she was excited to see. Unfortunately it was down an alley next to the police station. A cop car came toward her, the cop got out, drew his gun and yelled at her to put her hands on the car. She said the cop was so angry at her for skipping and it made no sense. She was with a white man, her friend, and when she pointed him out to the cop and explained that they were picking up their friend for dinner, the cop “changed his attitude with a quickness.” She got a gun drawn on her for skipping!

Amber realized that she could have been murdered and that even her friends would believe that she attacked a police officer, saying “she doesn’t seem like the type, but…” She asked people to “imagine a bunch of incidents like that over a lifetime, magnified by 43 million African-Americans. That is why people are angry. If you’re not angry, why not?

This is how you do it. You focus on the people affected by systemic racism and let them tell you what it’s like. For every Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland, there are countless other victims whose names we don’t hear, and so many other Black people who have nearly been killed by police, multiple times, and are of course afraid to interact with law enforcement in any way.

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7 Responses to “Seth Meyers opens with stories from writer Amber Ruffin about scary run-ins with police”

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  1. BlueSky says:

    I was driving home on the highway. I was about to get off on my exit when I see a police car with his sirens on. I immediately started shaking. My heart was racing. All I could think is “this is how it ends” Fortunately he sped passed me. Just the idea that I could be Sandra Bland just freaked me out. It took me a while to calm down.
    People need to understand this is the reality for so many black people. The police aren’t here to protect someone who looks like me.

    • Christina says:

      @Bluesky, your story brought tears to my eyes. I worry about my nephews and nieces and my daughter because of what you experienced.

  2. Tiffany :) says:

    This made me bawl!! A teenage girl, preparing her mind to enter heaven because she thinks a police officer is going to kill her. America has failed so many people. Tragedy and trauma inflicted upon so many people.

  3. Christina says:

    I look White and come from a mixed-Mexican and African American family. These stories happened in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area when I was with Black or Mexican family and friends.

    My daughter was about 3 years old. I look white. My African American, chocolate MIL was with me and my daughter at my apartment. My ex was behind a bush. My daughter adored him and he wanted to surprise her. A oler white police cop in a police car was driving by. He assumed that my ex was “lying in wait” and drove slowly by. Thankfully, the officer kept going once he realized that we were a family and my daughter embraced her dad. I was afraid the cop would kill her ex in front of my baby and his mother.

    When I was in high school, a friend and I were pulled over in my cheap car in Compton, CA near our homes. A white police officer pulled us over. She didn’t have a reason. She told us to get out of the car. The radio in the dashboard didn’t work, and the guy who owned the car previously had rigged a stereo under the front seat. She accused us of stealing the radio. She detained us for about 30 minutes. My friend was a Mexican American freshman at Stanford.

    When I was in college, my mom bought a car from a rental car agency. I was driving it with my friends, dark skinned Black people. The rental car agency erroneously reported the car stolen. We were taken down like people who stolen a car. We were handcuffed. The police joked that my mom probably reported it stolen because My boyfriend was Black. They assumed that I was white and “slumming”. The only reason I got out of jail was because I begged a brown del mal police officer to call my mom, that it was a mistake. I stayed in a jail cell for 9 hours. My friends were released because ether couldn’t be linked to the car, but it had been rented in my sister’s name.

    This just the stuff I witnessed. Everyone in my family who can’t pass for white has a story.

  4. Veronica S. says:

    The whole bad apples thing is so infuriating because even if it wasn’t a systematic issue….in a barrel full of apples, how the hell do you know which ones are the bad ones?? Especially when the stakes are literally getting murdered? It’s such an insanely insulting premise.

    But yes, all of them have these stories. All of them. When I did unionization efforts for my one hospital, a lot of the black members refused to do certain types of protests for fear of their safety, and nobody questioned that they weren’t wrong. They had an absolute right to be afraid. Police state tactics get used across the board, but minorities by and large get the brunt of it. My mother grew up poor and didn’t trust police because of it, but even she, a sixty-three year old white woman, can understand the issue of police brutality against black communities and how her whiteness protected her against worse. I don’t understand who white people are fooling pretending they don’t know.

  5. sa says:

    When I took driver ed in high school, there were 3 girls in my car, 2 of us where white and the third girl was black. Our driver ed teacher always took extra care to point out to her where police would park to monitor the roads. This was pre cell phone videos, so in my naivete I thought that he was just warning her that police were racist about giving tickets. It didn’t occur to me until years later that he was trying to protect her, in the limited way he could.

  6. Christina says:

    The son of my 7th grade typing teacher was lynched by the Signal Hill police department near Long Beach California in the early 80s. The police tried to say that he hung himself in jail. That was a lie. He was a handsome and popular star football player at Long Beach State who tutored little kids in his spare time.

    His name is Ron Settles. The reason that jails now have video during arrests in the United States is because of his murder by police officers. His parents ended up settling for $1M dollars because the times were different. Ron has written a paper about Staggar Lee, a Black folk hero who fights racists. That caused enough doubt at the time and risk that nothing would be done that the family settled.