Zaire Adams (he/him), 19, is a an actor, singer, dancer, writer currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He is a film major concentrating in screen writing, business/marketing minor at Santa Monica College.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing some form of policing? What flaws in the system allowed those situations to happen?
When I was six, the police kicked the door in. They were looking for my dad. Turned out that my dad was not involved. It was a very alarming thing to see these white police officers kick your door and take your dad away for no reason. With no explanation.
In 2012, my eleven-year-old nephew went missing for a day. They were not that persistent with looking for him, they were not putting a lot of energy and time and effort into finding him. His teacher actually was the one who found him about seventeen hours later. That made me really feel like, wow, our lives aren’t as important, especially a child, it’s December as well, in the freezing cold, no one knows where he is. Why aren't you guys putting in the time and effort to find where he was? My sister was having a difficult time in engaging with them [the police] and it was like, “wow, they don’t really give a crap”.
When I was seventeen, I was profiled. I was followed by a police officer with my best friends, John, David and Josiah. We are all black. He followed us from Woodland Hills, about 12 minutes from my house. He followed us the entire time, followed us until we got up to my apartment building. Asked us what we were doing, where we going, asking John why he was driving the car. It was a scary situation. He camped outside of my apartment and watched us. He stayed there for another ten minutes before I guess he got bored and left. I just really didn’t understand, because we have just left Red Robin, we were just eating. I don’t what we were up to that caught his interest. Was it because we looked nice? Had good things? You can literally be tagged for being black. It’s really sad.
When you think about the history of America as a whole, it’s tricky to believe that the police are here to do good and treat us well and be there for us. That’s not what the foundation of this country is built upon. Who wouldn’t want to believe that you can call the police all our troubles will be saved and we’ll feel safe. It should be, but I don’t really think of it as that. The police are a representation of the history of this country.
Q: How has your family been impacted by the police?
My dad has had his door kicked a little bit too many times, he will always have a sour taste in his mouth about the police. White people as well. He has seen the horrors of the criminal justice system. I have seen how it’s affected him. He acts and behaves a certain way. Not out of fear, but out of anger, hurt, disdain.
Q: You mentioned having a lack of opportunities and options and how that serves as a pathway to troubles with the police. With systemic reform, such as helping black communities get on their feet, providing better mental health options, etc., do you think that you and your family could have avoided a lot of your issues with the police and the criminal justice system?
My nephew has had a lot of legal trouble. That just goes back to his lack of opportunities. He always found himself alone and getting into things he shouldn’t get into. He’s had a lot of negative, traumatic experiences because he was not always in the right setting. He didn’t have opportunities, because his mom didn’t have opportunities.
As a country if we put more effort into helping the black community it would cut off the segue to black youth’s volatile interaction with the police. It goes back to my dad, my oldest brother as well, my uncles. They didn’t have a lot to work with. They didn’t have people in their ear guiding them down the right path. Instead they have the police in their ear.
Q: Do you feel that as a black person is doesn’t matter where you are, you are still experiencing that same level fear of the police?
Everywhere you go you have that pinch of fear when it comes to police. Black people have a shared experience, they will always have that fear in the back of their mind.
Q: Why did you decide to share your story?
After doing a lot of work protesting after George Floyd, I told my mom, I’m exhausted. Trying to tell people and trying to make people understand what should already be understood is exhausting. But you have to do it, because if you don’t someone else might not.
You have to talk about change until change is happening.
Everyone’s stories and experiences matter and deserve to be heard, because I’m sure there are worse stories that nobody will ever be hear about.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for your generation and future generations?
I would love to see a reform of law enforcement. I hope that my generation and generations after me don’t get killed by police on camera.
I hope that doors aren’t kicked in on little kids whose parents are just trying make ends meet, I hope that if a black child does go missing, that all the manpower in the world is put in to find them. I hope that if the police stay around, that reform is mandatory, is not an option, but it is that something that needs to be done and will be done.
Because they’re here to protect us, and they’re not doing that.