Samuel Smith oral history interview, 2011 June 17, 2011 June 22. OH-02429. [Audio recording] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las V
Standardized Rights Statement
A few minutes ago you said something about the Westside not being a community. What did you mean? If you move here over 50, and your kids are grown, you don't have any concerns about schools. Probably got gray hair, like me, and we don't even worry about the cops. You don't see them. You're not looking for work. You're just here. But if you come here at 22, and a lot of us have a baby and a spouse. You have to find work. You're definitely going to be dealing with the educational system. You probably are going to have an encounter with a police officer. I was 35. I was here a week, and I was incarcerated. Thank God I wasn't drinking or I would have been dead. I'm an ex-policeman. I happened to be waiting on the credit union to open up. I was sitting there, reading my paper. I fell asleep while reading my paper. I had been up all night. A cop came over and he arrested me for loitering and vagrancy. I said, sir, I live right there. I said I'm waiting on the bank to open. I didn't have any money, so I wasn't going to stay in a casino. He arrested me. That affected my whole life. I had to have a special interview to get on the fire department because I had to write I had been arrested. This is what black men don't tell you. I had to overcome the same thing when I was a policeman at 21. They interviewed me going through the process. When they called me, I had to go talk to one man. He said, "Your father was incarcerated." Yep. I told him I hadn't seen him in 20 years. He said, "Your brother was incarcerated." I said, "When does a younger brother influence an older brother? That could have heavily impacted my life." That's something that plagues young brothers. That's one of the reasons why I work with kids. That's why I'm always encouraging people to become police officers and firefighters. Police officers are one thing, because when I stop you, I ask you some questions. I get a little feel from you. Once you lose your fingerprints today, guess what? Do you think black police officers are different from white police officers? I'm glad you asked that question. I'd be very, very careful. First of all, we get them out of the Air Force. They're not from here. They don't have any roots here. It's a job. The sad part about America is that everything is reduced to being a job. You asked about activism. I said if they're paid, they're not an activist. That's their job. You can see certain levels of passion brought to something. I'm here almost every day at five o'clock in the morning, because I'm getting things ready for my crop, my kids.