I sat watching my speedometer drop viewing 41 in a 40 last night. The officer walked over and asked did I know that Speed limit. I said, "Yes, Sir 40." I didn't debate the one mile over. That was fair. He asked Where I'd come from, was headed, license, insurance, registration. I replied each time, "Yes, officer." Each prompted another question, each question a little lower than the first, each one digging at my patience my manhood, "Is this your car, do you work, you out partying and drinking, or you just like driving fast?" and when I finally asked after so many questions, "Well Sir, am I being detained or do I need a lawyer?"
He replied, "No , sir...you were doing 50 in a 40. I could give you a 55 or 60 but I'm going to give you a 50. If you get a good law friend of yours, if you have any that smart, they may can help you." There was a tone in his voice that made me uneasy, a pleasantry that made me cautious, a look in his eye that felt like judgement. This time- I drove off. I wondered in my leaving should I have been more bold? Should I have protested what seemed to be an unjust process and cynical demeaning line of questioning too long too post or an over 50 minute engagement and wait over one mile an hour? Or should I drive home to my daughter: this time safe? I thought of so many fallen that have become too many to name. It feels like a disgrace to blurt out a name without a moment to process the hurt of each and yet we do. Writers every list so many, each day, another color fallen in blogs and articles that are becoming so normal to read. They are piling up like broken crayons on the floor of a kindergarten. Each one leaving blots and stains on concrete that we never can remove. Each one desensitizing us to the point where clicking on You Tube videos and Facebook posts doesn't even make us cry anymore.
I pulled over.
They say black men should not cry when sad. Well , hell, we can't be angry either. The only acceptable emotions are humble, happy, and slave smile gratitude. These emotions shut me down last night because I realized that for all these reasons a very small fragment of a population of police that do their job well each day has caused a systematic oppression and very real fear to manifest. We fear police stopping us because for some of us those stops are our last. The fear of driving while black causes us to drive significantly slower, have flashbacks of faces we've never known, relive stories and trauma from families connected only through color. The frustration is seeing my counterparts who are also our brothers in humanity pulled over and smiling at traffic stops because they for the most part encounter the 98% of police that are doing their job to protect and serve. Some of our counterparts of the same ages and professions even choose to engage or even launch loud retorts back with no inkling of the danger they could be in because that danger does not exist to them. It is easy to swim with fish if your pool does not contain any sharks. Statistics show an above significant average that is undeniable that driving while black is a possible death sentence that no jury ever gets to deliberate.
I wish I had better words that were more prophetic, researched, meaningful, unapologetically angry, and collectedly refined. I don't have any of those. All I have are these broken ones to try and paint a picture of an emotion that I never asked for when I was born black. The ones that I used to express the joy of driving when I first learned have long left me. I have forgotten what those words sounded like. It's a shame that the only word I can pronounce sometimes in those moments that I encounter the 2% are the words that too many of our youth are learning to pronounce: "FEAR WHILE DRIVING BLACK."
- Urban Thoughts