Most of us have witnessed (via social media or in real life) the tremendous amount of police brutality and killings that occur on a day to day basis, especially in the last few years. Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling ... the list goes on.
Me? My police interactions have been very few. Once with my mother when I was a teenager. Once, by myself, many years ago, and twice more in the last year with other people. All whilst driving. Although the cars were pulled over for speeding each of those times, the last two were very different for me, when compared to the first two. One of those last two was just my husband and me.
March 11th of this year, my husband and I were driving back home from a basketball tournament game. It was around 10:40 something. Late. My husband, Marc, was driving, and we were sitting in silence - the aftermath of a disagreement we had just had. We noticed a police cruiser pull up next to us, cruising at the same speed for about half a mile. I continued on my phone (trying to not draw attention to myself), and after creepily* driving directly next to us for half a mile, the cop slowed down and we continued on our way.
A few minutes later, about three exits from home, we saw the police cruiser light up behind us. Immediately, my heart started pounding. This feeling wasn't the usually PTSD I get when I see a cop car (my first time getting pulled over alone scarred me for life). It was something different. Immediately, I tweeted, "Just got pulled over...," as a reflex - one I never knew I had.
Marc told me to relax, and that it would be okay. A big figure walked up to the driver side window. Didn't even say, "Hello," or ask if we knew why he pulled us over. Didn't even bend down to look us in the face. Didn't even make himself visible, seeing that he was practically standing in front of the passenger door instead of my husband's. Didn't even verbally ask for license and registration. All I saw was a flashlight, and pale, white skin.
My husband handed over his info without a word, and the officer went back to his cruiser. A few minutes later, he walked back to his passenger door spot and handed Marc a ticket. He mumbled, "Ticket for speeding. Make sure you slow down," and walked away again, without looking at us or letting us utter a word.
I don't know if he was trying to avoid conflict or if he was in a hurry, but throughout that whole interaction, all I could think about was Philando Castile. It was as if a movie was playing, and I was just watching it subconsciously, while my mind drifted to the most horrible thoughts. I pictured never seeing this officer's face, yet witnessing my husband being shot for no reason. Me screaming at the top of my lungs - covered in blood - yet no one being around to hear me. Me not having any type of space on my phone to record what was going on. I was lost in my dreadful thoughts, all while watching this situation unfold. My mind was in both places, somehow.
We pulled back onto the highway. The drive home was pretty silent, but not out of anger towards each other, anymore. I was quiet, pensive. When we got home we spoke here and there, getting ready to sleep, until I finally sat in bed. I sat there, quietly, staring blankly at the wall. Again, I began to think. We had just argued. What if something had happened after such a petty argument? What if I hadn't gotten to say, "I love you"? Immediately, I began sobbing. I was so grateful to God for sparing the both of us. I was so thankful that we had encountered a "rude" officer instead of an outwardly racist, murderous one. And I realized that I was not the same girl I was six years ago.
Six years ago, I would have not been fazed by this. Not just because of the lack of publicity about these types of violence, but because my identity as a black woman was non-existent. My identity as a minority and knowledge of how we are treated was non-existent. I didn't know the way I could be viewed by my society. I just thought I was ... me. Now, I am a different person. Before this night, I had dreaded this day because I knew that the way I identify is not the same. The way I view this world is not the same. My life is not the same. No matter how I identify, no matter how my parents identify - I am a black woman, married to a black man. God willing, I will give birth to beautiful, black babies, someday. They will be mine, whether I think I'm white, black, yellow, or pink, and they might go through the same fear I went through. They might get pulled over for a "broken taillight" one day. They may get illegally searched, one day. They may be hurt by law enforcement, unjustly, one day. And that's the truth. Regardless of what race I am, my husband is black, and my children will be black.
It's something I wish more Latinxs would understand. I wish it for those who have not yet embraced their roots, those who are white passing and married to a black person, or those who have not yet embraced their roots and happen to be married to a black person (because black + black still definitely equals black). It's something I wish anyone with black family members or friends would understand. It can happen to you. It can happen to them. It can happen to any of us. We are all the same to them, whether it be our golden and/or brown skin, our accent, or our hair. Please ... understand. Please, make your families understand. It's your spouse. It's your children. It's their son or daughter in law. It's their grandchildren. It's someone you know.
Until next time,