I hate writing blogs about shit like this. I actually usually sit around and spend a fair amount of time talking myself out of doing things like this. Other than the minor reflective value this provides for me, I'm fairly sure these fall on close to deaf ears: and if not deaf ears, usually very friendly and cooperative ears, the ones who feel your pain and feel sorry for your experience, but when the day is done, they can do as much for you and you have the ability to change the weather...
...i was pulled over by the police last night. Those of you that know me understand this is not a new event: this makes 77 (yes, that's two fucking sevens next to each other) times in my life I've been pulled over. This may seem like a lot, and that's because it is a lot. The benefit I got from growing up in a "good neighborhood" was being treated like I didn't belong in there, like I was a foreigner invading their White landscape. So I got pulled over essentially all the time: pulled over in front of my house on multiple occasions, pulled over on the same street (the main street leading to my house) by the same cop four times in the same day, I've had my car searched on the side of the road (seven) more times than I've gotten tickets (three) and have been held at gunpoint, well, let's just say more than I've been pulled over.
So getting pulled over, in and of itself, is not an event that will rattle me. Been there, done that, got more than a few t-shirts for the occasion (in high school i actually had a t-shirt i wore under my shirt that had a cartoon Donald Duck "Assuming The Position" as a quiet means of protest- never allowed to wear it in public as "those motherfuckers will kill you" was Ma Dukes' sage advice)....fast forward to last night....
...just got back hanging with a friend talking about life stuff, and after getting an Uber home, i decided to go to the store and get something to snack on. It was almost 10:30pm, so I decided to go to the Wal-Mart, which is a little further up the road than the typical grocery store (and this is the place that accused me of walking out of the store with food and without paying, so even this store had some history). I decided to head to Wal-Mart....I'm about six blocks from home when I see the flashing sirens. Seems odd: I'm on a straight road, going under the speed limit and there's literally nobody else around (and not sure if this makes sense to those with less melanin- when i get pulled over, I like there to be an audience, so if i get shot, they'll have to silence witnesses as opposed to me having none). So I'm on a side street, with no traffic and really nobody around: i do see peering through the windows- but it's that "what's going on i don't want to be involved" peering that, when cops ask questions at the door, nobody sees anything. Police officer sits and waits before approaching my car and I know what that means: they're waiting for 'backup'- not sure what about me makes a guy call for backup...wait...I think I may have figured it out...
...once the second car arrives, the officer approaches the vehicle, and asks me for my drivers license and my registration for the vehicle. I inform the officer that my wallet in in my front pocket, and that I needed to move my right hand to my front pocket to retrieve my license, and that, although this was my wife's vehicle, i was pretty sure the registration was in the glove compartment, and that i would have to reach across the vehicle to open the box and hand them the registration. I reached into my pocket without incident, retrieved my wallet, pulled out my license and put the wallet back. I then went to reach across the car to go to the glove box when I hear:
"FREEZE. DO NOT MOVE!!!!"
At this time, I look back and realize that there are two officers, flashlights in my eyes to blind me. I'm a little disoriented as you can imagine: I just told them what i was going to do, specifically to avoid this exact scenario.
"I'm not moving. I'm reaching to grab my registration. I just to"- and then I see them- i don't know enough about guns to know what kind of guns were drawn, but i can say this: there were two officers, one yelling at the top of his lungs with a gun aimed through the drivers side and a second light and gun being aimed through the back window (which was that really necessary: it's a Prius- there's only like 5 feet between both officers.
So I stop. But as I stop some names pop in my head. John Crawford. Akai Gurley. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Harris. Walter Scott. And it occurs to me that I might actually fucking die at the end of this exchange. This feeling was more real: more so than it did on the other four occasions where I have been held at gunpoint, by police, in my vehicle, for a traffic stop that did not end with the police officers issuing a citation.
Let that marinade, as my mamma might say, 'for a hot minute' and you'll realize that means that, on five separate occasions in my life, I have had police officers pull their weapons on me for a 'routine' traffic stop in which i was never issued a ticket.
In what felt like 10 minutes of time in Real As Hell Freeze Tag where moving gets you shot, the officer finally tells me I can move again, and as I reach to grab the registration (which I told them I was grabbing initially but I wanted another reminder), the officer tells me there's no problem here, hands me back my drivers license and tells me I'm free to go.
Entire length of interaction: less than four minutes. two hundred and forty seconds. And what did the police get to do in that block of time: 1) remind me of 'my place' which, despite being pulled over in my own neighborhood, couldn't have been more clear that i didn't belong there as if it has been 1865 and I'd ventured out past Sundown, 2) remind me that, as an African American male, there are no simple or implication-less tasks, and 3) that power is something that can be wielded upon me at their leisure, and there's really no recourse. What am I gonna do: complain to the police? The degree of presumption they get from the law is devastating: Tamir Rice and Eric Garner grand juries should be proof of this (we all know Grand Juries are full of shit, but that's another blog)
I'm here right now, I firmly believe, because I didn't sneeze or cough at the wrong time- and those who know me, i cough a lot. I'm here right now because despite me being a threat, I wasn't enough of a threat to these individuals to warrant being shot. Maybe they just didn't feel like filling out any paperwork.
And when people ask me why I don't have kids, I give them an answer: I don't really want kids. Which is true- I don't. But if I was to examine what the reason behind not wanting kids, there are many, some of which are probably legitimate reasons. But for me, it's all those, with one major reason as a backdrop: Fear. I do not believe I could bring a child into a world where I fear they would never be welcome, and that I don't have the ability to keep them safe.
An American citizen who doesn't want to have children because he believes, in all of his being, that this country would not be safe for his children. That should sting more than it probably does.