On Sunday, July 2, Angela Williams shared her testimony of racial reconciliation. The powerful words of her story appear below.
As I pulled into the parking lot of Aqua Tots swim school, I saw the police car. The officer had already called me to let me know she was needing to issue me my warrant for the charges that were being presented against me so we agreed to meet here since my kids were scheduled for their lessons. As I ushered the kids into Aquatots and got them settled…the officers came in and approached me to come outside. After I greeted them, they showed me where to sign and I read the warrant as it stated the misdemeanor that I was accused of, the penalty which was upwards to possible jail time and the date I was to be seen in court which was weeks away. I wished them a good day only to turn around and see all eyes from the people inside the swim school on me. As I took my seat…in disbelief I read and re read this warrant trembling a bit looking ahead to the many weeks until the time in court. In the weeks to come and the weeks prior to, I would become more aware of Jesus as my Comforter, Protector, Sustainer and my Example.
To backtrack a bit, this all begin in October of 2016 as I was getting the kids ready for a doctor’s appt and I heard a knock on the door. I checked to see who it was and it was a police officer, in full uniform. Once I opened the door, he asked me, “Are you Angela Williams?” I affirmed that and he asked if I had visited a certain makeup store a few weeks ago. I responded “yes” but a little puzzled and uneasy not sure if this was real and how did he know what I did a few weeks ago and where I lived? He then said, “The store has you on tape stealing 7 items from them”. It was at this point that shock and disbelief came over me as he looked at me with a “matter of fact” disposition. I started to recall the day I went to the store and what, if anything, I did wrong. I remember being there by myself that day as I was asked, “Do you need any help?” to which I said “no” as I continued to shop. That was what I remembered from that day but with the officer before me, stating that I was caught on tape stealing, I was confused and scared not knowing what to do. I told him I didn’t steal anything and that I purchased over $50 of merchandise He went on to say, “It’s not like you will go to jail or anything, you would probably just get petty larceny”. I looked at him again in disbelief…and told him that wasn’t ok because I didn’t do it. I asked him had he seen the tape and he said “no”. (I would later find out he admitted to never seeing it). In my mind it seemed like he had already made his assessment about me even without seeing me do anything. He left and I immediately called my husband.
As I reflect back to that time period, I remember the Lord being my Provider and Comforter in many ways. He used Dave Beckner to point us in the direction of a lawyer who could defend me and He provided the funds to acquire such a lawyer. I remember the lawyer being perplexed at the details of the case and concerned that proper procedures were not followed. In the days and weeks leading up to the warrant being issued, I remember the Holy Spirit helping me to take verses like Psalm 46 to heart, that talked about God being my Refuge and how I was to not fear even though fear is exactly what I dealt with most of the time.
As the first court date approached, I remember friends and family saying I was racially profiled. I didn’t want to make that my first thought but it was a thought in my mind and I felt helpless to do anything about it. The first of three court appearances was just to issue the date again to me of my next appearance. The next court date brought more battles with anxiety of the unknown…the Lord again was my comfort and assurance. After speaking with my lawyer, we thought the next day would go smoothly as no other evidence was given to him.
While in court with my husband and my dear friend Maryann Roberts…they called me to present the case. At the judge’s bench were two of my accusers, my lawyer, the prosecutor, the judge, the officer, other court appointees and myself as my case was presented. And of course a tape was brought forth. A tape that wouldn’t play on any of the prosecutor’s machines so the prosecutor was unable to see what was on it but insisted he could go ahead with the case even without it. Thankfully, after some back and forth, my lawyer fought to not proceed as we should have been able to see all evidence and a continuance was granted. That meant another few weeks and another court appearance. This tape and whatever was on it, troubled me greatly. To make a long story short, as I stood before the judge for the third and final time, I didn’t see the two accusers, I saw my lawyer off in the corner talking to the prosecutor. Unsure of what was going on until I heard the prosecutor say “motion to dismiss all charges”. And in the two minutes it took to say that, the charges were dismissed and we left the courtroom. In the hallway, my lawyer gave me a hug and looked at me and just said, “You were racially profiled”. When he said those words I felt a sense of relief and sadness all at once. I thanked him that he, a white man, would be so honest with me. I am still in the process of getting my name cleared and this charge off of my record. I remember my husband asking me if I was ok and I told him, “I am so angry!” as tears ran down my face. I was angry for many reasons…although I was thankful for it to be over, I felt humiliated, I felt powerless that I could be accused of something, taken to court and required to pay large sums of money to clear my name just because someone saw the color of my skin and saw me as a threat. I was angry and I was sad because I wanted revenge. Christ was and is my example in that when he was accused, His confidence was in His Father and He brought glory to His father in the way He responded…this helped me to bring those thoughts captive and submit them to Him as I moved forward.
I know I’m not the first, nor the last person of color to experience something like this so I can look back on this now and say that I am grateful for the way the Lord sustained, provided and comforted me through the means of His word and the gift of community. To this day when I am out shopping and someone asks me, “May I help you?”, I automatically get nervous and feel like I have done something wrong.
As I ponder the thoughts of racism and racial profiling, I think of how it affects me as a black woman, mother and wife. Whenever I see the news about another black man or boy killed by those in their own community or even by those sworn to protect them, my heart is overwhelmed and sometimes disillusioned. Especially when justice is not found in a conviction of the guilty party. When I look into the eyes of these men who have been murdered, it sobers me to know that many loved ones that I care about are at risk. I think about this weekly if not daily…as a black woman this is just the reality of life. I don’t get to hide from this. I remember my parents telling me how for minorities, we would have to work harder to be considered equal and though I didn’t fully understand, I am grateful for what they were trying to teach me about being careful yet courageous in this world.
As a mom, I am learning to care for my little ones best by teaching them what God’s word says about them and how they were made in the Imago Dei…the very image of God. They were created, fashioned for His glory and that He made us different colors to display His glory as well. And as a wife, I get to learn how to entrust my husband and his safety to the Lord each day he leaves our home. I don’t speak for all of us, but as an African American woman living in this time and in this area, I am profoundly affected by the devastation in our communities. My prayer and hope for us as a body of believers, is that we would make time to listen to one another, to ask questions even hard questions if it would further understanding and build relationship. Pursue relationship with those who do not look like us, to hear their stories, to see the world through their life experiences and as we pray to continue our efforts to make the church look more like a beautiful tapestry of all ethnicities and backgrounds worshipping together as one to the Glory of God.