I am a white middle-aged woman. I once accidentally drove with an expired license tag for over a month. When I was stopped by a young police officer I batted my eyelashes and got a warm smile and nothing more than a warning to “take care of that as soon as possible, miss!”
When he pulled me over for the offense, I have to admit that my heart began beating faster, and I’m sure my blood pressure shot up. I had no idea why I’d been stopped, but having been taught my entire life that police officers are there to protect and serve I sat quietly in my seat as he approached my car.
“Are you aware that your license plate expired in March?” He asked.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, “I had no idea. I’m so sorry!”
“License, registration and proof of insurance, please,” he requested.
“Sure, no problem.”
I fished my license and insurance card out of my purse and leaned over to get the registration out of the glove compartment. It took me awhile because my hands were shaking a bit. Finally I found the correct document and presented it to the officer with a smile.
“I can’t believe I didn’t take care of this! We are in the middle of a transfer and this just got lost in the shuffle.”
“Oh? Where are you moving?”
“Dodge City,” I said.
We chatted briefly about the distance to Dodge City from Great Bend and how he had an aunt who lived there. He then gave me a dimpled smile and sent me off with a warning.
As he drove away in his squad car I sat relieved. Whew! Dodged a bullet, as we say.
For black men in this country, the standards are different. They do not always get the feeling that the police are there to serve and protect, and with good reason. Routine traffic stops like the one I recounted often have fatal consequences for the black driver and/or his passenger(s). In other words, they don’t get to dodge the bullet.
We have a serious problem in this country. There is a different standard for people of color. Blacks are detained for “walking while black” if they don’t appear to belong in certain neighborhoods. They are profiled and stopped for minor traffic incidents and often they do not survive.
And then, at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas, Texas, a disturbed young black man did the unthinkable, opening fire on police officers who were mingling with and offering protection to those assembled. He killed five officers and left others injured. Five men who were protecting the rights of citizens to lawfully protest didn’t get to dodge those bullets that ended their lives.
I’ve cried a lot this week. Cried for two young black men who joined many others who’ve been killed for minor infractions and for the policemen whose lives were lost on Friday night. We can mourn them all. There is no conflict of interest.
The right wing media has begun demonizing these black victims. Rumors are flying: “he was a bank robber,” “he might’ve been a pedophile….” Even before the blood had dried on the pavement their names were being dragged through the media mud, without a shred of evidence or proof of either being true.
The Dallas event, a peaceful, unity building affair, has likewise been painted by the right in a completely different color: “I hear they (Blacks) were taunting and threatening the police,” “I hear it was really ugly down there.” And yet, I have friends of all ethnicities who attended and said it was a life affirming event, right up until the shooting.
This didn’t start out as a condemnation of the right wing media, but the more I wrote the more angry at them I became. People who listen exclusively to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, or watch only FOX news are being fed a line that is not only false, but dangerous.
I want it to just stop. I want us to remember that we are all in this together, that the rights of every single human being on the face of this earth are equally important. I don’t want special treatment based on the color of my skin.
Peace, people. I’m going to go cry some more.