Recently, I was stopped by a police officer. Countless of times I have heard my family say that whenever you are stopped by a police officer, your overall task is it to make it home alive. If you are a black woman or a black man, you have heard and witness what could happen to you when you are stopped by a police officer. At times, an encounter with a white police officer can result in death. As I left work, I wasn’t thinking about being pulled over by a police officer. I was more focused on how I can save more money. In the mist of thinking, I accidentally put my work bag, which contained my drivers licences, in the back seat of my car. Did you catch that word “accidentally”? As I proceeded to drive home, I notice the red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. You know the feeling all to well. Fingers begin to sweat and your heart pumps a little harder. But, I know how to handle this. Remain calm. Then I remembered, I accidentally put my work bag in the back seat. By the time I remembered where my licences were located, it was to late. The police officer had already approached my vehicle. He asked for my licences, and which I quickly responded that they were in my work bag and my work bag is in the back seat. Ok, you can go ahead grab your bag to retrieve your licences, he said. I looked at him for at for at least 20 seconds before I decided to reach slowly for my work bag and retrieve my licence.
I was still on the phone with my husband and he heard me when I told the cop that my licences were in my work bag. As I reached for my bag, I couldn’t help but think of the countless African Americans who had been murdered by police officers. All I could see was death. It is safe to say that he didn’t shoot me. Instead, he grabbed my licences, did his research to see if I had any warrants or outstanding tickets, and he sent me on my way.
My husband was furious at me for having my work bag in the backseat of my car. You see, this is how bad our society is. A black woman or a black man can’t even put his/her work bag in the back seat of the car without worry that a cop will mistake it as gun or a weapon. My husband told me that I needed think more clearly. I thought to myself, I have to juggle my daily tasks such as work, grocery shopping, home planning, etc and then on top of that, when I get in my car, I must remember to put my work bag or purse in the front seat of my car. Some people may argue that I should have taken out my wallet along with my insurance and registration once I got into my car. What am I? A prisoner or a suspect? Is this supposed to be freedom? I have to plan my life around what a police officer thinks of me? I have to make him/her comfortable because he/she views me as a threat?
I am sorry that I have to say this but, if I am ever murdered by a police officer for having my licences in my work bag, and the police officer thought I had a gun or did not feel safe around me, then I will be glad that I am dead. There is no joy in living a life where you are a prisoner to making people feel comfortable around you because of the repulsive stereotypes that have plagued your people for generations. We are not as free as we think we are.