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Around 12 years ago, while running errands in a small Alabama town, a friend and I stopped at an ATM. She put in her card and entered her PIN, but the machine was acting up somehow. She tried again. Still not working. She was trying one more time when we were suddenly surrounded by police. I don't think there were weapons drawn, but some of the officers definitely had their hands on their guns.

My friend jumped back from the ATM with a startled "whoa," raising her hands—it seemed half-joking, but also an acknowledgement that there were armed police moving toward her. The officers asked what we were doing, and relaxed as we explained that we'd stopped at the ATM but it didn't seem to be working. They explained in turn that they'd had an alarm from the bank and came expecting a break-in. They didn't take our names, didn't detain us at all. We walked away, talking about how startled we'd been but not deeply shaken. It's not something I think about often. Why would I? It wasn't a big moment in my life.

The only time I think about it is when I read a story like this: Roy Middleton, aged 60, was getting a cigarette out of his mother's car one night in the driveway of the home he shares with her, when, suspecting robbery, a neighbor called the police:

Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, “Get your hands where I can see them.”

He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.

He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire.

Do I need to say that my friend and I at the ATM were white, and that Roy Middleton is black? Whiteness may not be magic armor, and blackness may not be a certain death sentence, but they sure do change the odds in the favor of some and against others when it comes to how many shots police will decide to take.

(Via ThinkProgress)

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 12:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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