One Wednesday evening, Luc casually informs me that there is a small event happening after class in a tiny spot on campus called “Le Foyer.” After a month of heading home almost immediately after classes, I decide to socialize and tag along. I follow my classmates to “Le Foyer”. Amid the characteristic French cigarette smoke and loud chatter of my peers, I noticed something. A white car and flashing lights. Three cops step out of the car causing my heart to race. I take a step back unconsciously, then a few more.

“What’s wrong?” I ask Alain, one of my classmates. In a fluid motion, he puffs on a cigarette and tousles his curly hair.  His demeanor completely contrasts my inner disturbance. Frozen by fear, I find my mind racing, I start to rub my hands together to warm them from the brisk Toulouse wind.

“There’s alcohol and loud music,” Alain responds calmly, “some neighbors must have called the police. They do that from time to time.”

OK, Aanu… If the scene becomes violent, turn away from the door. Quietly. Act as if you want to buy food from the ‘Le Petit Faim,’ and walk as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Ah, what if they (the police) think you’re fleeing, you know how that could end. What kind of orders could they bark so I can comply and won’t be ‘resisting arrest’? Arretez means stop..ugh.. tes mains means your hands.

“You cahn go in,” Alain says nonchalantly disrupts my wandering thoughts. I peek inside the tiny, spacious social area and at the three cops who have now decided to monitor the area. “There’s no problem.” Alain insists.

Taking a deep breath, I walk inside and run into Amina, she awkwardly says hey (I’m not used to giving side-kisses yet and she knows it). The rest of the event breezes by, I take a free cookie and I say goodbye and quickly waltz out when I realize that my brain has simply refused to translate French small talk. I need to think. On the ride home, I begin to confront myself concerning my earlier reactions. You are a child of God, Aanuoluwa. You should not fear.

From a very young age, I knew that the police were not to be trusted, well, Nigerian police. Growing up in a Yoruba middle class family, I instantly realized that cops were corrupt. They demanded bribes at “checkpoints” on the roads, refused to thoroughly investigate cases, choosing to incriminate suspects or torturing them until they “confessed.” No one prayed to encounter the police, in fact, very few people trusted the police. The public relations campaign which cried “The Police is Your Friend” was ridiculed by Nigerians. Could you blame them?

But shows such as CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) among other American police shows made me believe that across the Atlantic, there was a land where the police could be trusted. I saw these characters even get emotionally involved with the victims’ plights and I could not help but fall in love. When I moved to the United States in the 10th grade, I believed that the American police could be trusted. While my childhood experiences abroad did not permit me to be friendly with police, I was so sure I would be in “safe hands” if the need arose.

But my innocence did not last long. I had barely lived in the United States for six months when Trayvon Martin was gunned down. He was my age, 17 years old. I watched the media butcher the reputation of this young boy. Nightly updates unraveled a plot bent on dehumanizing a child. “He smoked weed, he was not as innocent as you would think.” Headlines claiming, “George Zimmerman feared for his life” made me realized that a man’s supposed fear seemed like justification to kill a harmless teenager walking home. At that moment, I made a mental note, “no hoodies at night.”

With each newly reported death of an unarmed black person, I took more mental notes “Speak calmly, always place hands on the dashboard (Samuel Dubois), do not run, simply allow them to arrest you even if it is against the law. It is better to be wronged than end up dead." As I grew older, the more it began to occur to me that all these mental precautions would not save me (or a family member) if a blood-thirsty cop crossed our path. Philando Castile followed orders completely and spoke calmly only to be shot brutally, Sandra Bland was pulled over, Aiyana Stanley-Jones was simply existing as a seven-year-old, Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun as most 12 year olds do. Matthew Ajibade was a college-educated 21-year-old with manic bipolar disorder.

These people mentioned above are but a few of the many black people murdered by each year in the United States. Their names are known to many of you, their pictures have been plastered on your TV screens, phones and other electronic devices. For years, I’ve chosen to live life cautiously in hopes that caution would keep me safe. Was I naïve? Of course, I chose to believe that I could rationally avoid police brutality and wrongful death. The truth is for many young black adults in the United States, a youth of reckless abandon is not possible. After only seven years in the United States, I realize I am fearful and distrust police officers. What if I had spent my entire lifetime as a young black woman in America?