In my social network, the furor over the treatment of black people in America seems to have died down. There seems to be this feeling that okay, we got mad about it, we spoke up – time to move on.
No. Not time to move on, because racial disparity in the United States is going nowhere unless we create a sustained, long-lasting campaign against it and to keep discrimination against people of color in our personal and communal consciousness. To contribute to that effort, I’m going to share a #crimingwhilewhite experience that happened to me last Wednesday.
As I was pulling out of the parking garage after work, I was exhausted. It was dark, it was foggy, and I was starving – I had stress-skipped lunch, which I can’t say I recommend. In short, I wasn’t exactly all there.
I pulled out, checked left at the car exiting the garage next to me, checked right at an oncoming car that I thought was far enough away for me to make it, and wheeled out of the garage – just in time to almost T-bone a cop car that had escaped my line of sight. I swear this shit happened. The cop car of course turned on its lights and I pulled over.
Panicking and foggy, I forgot to stay inside the car and opened my door slightly to speak with the officer, who walked over from behind me. “You didn’t see me?” They asked. “No, I’m so sorry,” I stammered, hyperventilating. “I just got off of work. I’m so sorry.” The officer coached me to take some deep breaths. I tried to offer them my license, and they replied, “I don’t care about that; I just care about safety. Now breathe – take some deep breaths. I’m going back to my car, and I just want you to get it together before you get on the highway.” I thanked them, shut the door, and went back to hyperventilating in solitude.
Maybe I had the fortune to meet the most understanding cop in the country. Or, maybe, I’m white. I was clearly agitated, had just almost caused a reckless accident with the very officer who then pulled me over, and opened the door and partially stepped out toward the officer. The officer attempted to calm me down, told me they were only concerned about my safety, and didn’t even look at my license. How might this have gone over if I were black?
The sad thing is, we don’t even have to speculate. You can just watch the video below (content note for violence against people of color). Surely my offense of almost causing a side-on collision with a policeman ranks as high on their radar as not wearing a seatbelt. Surely my clear emotional agitation and violation of appropriate roadside protocol, moving out of my car and toward the officer without being instructed to do so, ranks as high as reaching back into the back seat. Yet you can see for yourselves: the outcome is sharply different.
Uncomfortable? Good. We all should be.
That’s all, folks. Tune in next week for an upcoming episode of Nopestillnotpostracial, same time same place, a.k.a. all the time, everywhere. We have got to fix this shit.