The Right to Be Forgotten: Sixty-Eight
[Author’s Note: This installment deals with the police killing of a black man through the public statement of his wife. Please do not read if this is triggering. It is included here because criminal records are, in the author’s opinion, a vital ground for restricting aged information. Can legislation prevent police overreach? No. But it can possibly be part of the answer.]
“Mrs. Shameika Sloan is here to share a portion of her story, though you have heard it and will continue to see it manifest in others if not prevented.” E takes a step back and another woman moves to the microphones. In appearance she is as unlike E and Helen as you might find. Where the two are older, Shameika has a youthful face. Where E seems put-together and Helen seems plain, Shameika’s countenance appears greatly distressed.
Before she utters a word, tears gloss her cheeks. I wonder if she’ll be able to get through this.
“My name,” she says timidly, “is Shameika Sloan.” She looks back to E for support, I guess. Whatever she looks for, she gets and then some. Her voice now swells into one of fierce conviction as she takes in the audience and repeats: “My name is Shameika Sloan.”
“My husband’s name was Curtis Sloan. I say was because he was taken from this life not five days ago. He was not a perfect man but he was a man. He provided for his family and worked hard to overcome the mistakes of his younger self.” Tears melt into her skin. I feel as though her grief continues as it was moments ago even as she comes into the power of her words. “Yes, he had a criminal record. He’s never once denied that. It was that record that killed him as surely as it was the police officer who pulled the trigger.”
My mind reels for a quiet space to contemplate our bill helping a man like Curtis Sloan. We didn’t write it with him in mind. What were we thinking? Did we narrow it too much? Could it still work? I forced my mind to quiet so that I could listen again.
“He called me on the phone,” she says. “He said, ‘Meika, the lights came on behind me. I want you to hear what happens just in case.’ That’s what he said, ‘just in case.’ A scraping noise came across like he put the phone down quick. I heard the window motor rolling it down. Everything started polite enough. Curtis gave over his license and such. That’s when the policeman walked back to his car, I know, because Curtis told me he loved me and he thought everything would turn out alright.
“But it didn’t. The officer came back, screaming. Curtis tried to ask him the problem. The officer told him to get out of the car, so he started to open the door. That’s when the shot fired. That’s when the shot fired. And Curtis died.
“Even the police chief said there was no gun on Curtis. He wasn’t killed because he threatened police. My Curtis was murdered because a policeman decided to felt threatened. Because Curtis was a black man. Because Curtis had a record from more than ten years ago.”
Shameika paused. She seemed to stare into the lens of every camera. She seemed to challenge anyone to contradict her.