Giving Tuesday: Jenna Milliner-Waddell’s Story

Categories: Giving Tuesday
11/28/2017

When I was five-years-old my parents and I moved from our townhouse to a home they had just built in brand new development a few towns away.

The house — now home — was and still is perfect. While for me this just meant more room for toys and a bigger yard to play in, I imagine this moment felt much more like an accomplishment for my parents. However, this moment of joy came at the cost of some hurdles.

A few short weeks after moving in, my father, with me in the backseat, missed the turn into our development.

For anyone unfamiliar with this turn it’s easy to miss. To get to my house you have to drive under train tracks to an unlit road lined with towering trees. Many people drive straight past it. Realizing his mistake, my dad turned around in the dentist parking lot only a few hundred feet past the turn. His “suspicious” u-turn caught the attention of a local policeman.

The cop proceeded to tail my father and I back down the dark tree-lined road, into our brand new development, all the way into our driveway.

My father, a black man, angry this cop had just pulled him over in his own driveway, was fully aware of what was going on. My town was 94 percent white at the time with less than 5,000 residents, and filled with generations of the same families. A black man was a rare sight to see, and this cop used his power to investigate what business my family had driving around these parts.

The guy backed off once he saw the garage door open, and realized we were in fact new residents contributing to the 2.67 percent African American population.

At the time I remember laughing about the encounter and running into the house with excitement to tell my mom what had happened. It felt like a scene from a movie to me because I was five, the year was 2000, I knew nothing of police brutality and blindly trusted cops.

It’s 2017, I’m 22 and I’m not excited. If the same thing happened today I would have left the scene in tears, if I was lucky to walk away with my life.

Police brutality is not new, but it also won’t go away if the same law cops try to enforce is not used against them when they are in the wrong. Our justice system is flawed, but through the power of Platform voices like mine will ring through the halls of Capitol Hill and someone will hear my cry for change.