Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Happy" Birthday. On Driving While Black. 2016

The other night, my husband announced he was running to the pharmacy to grab some allergy medicine. It was late so I dozed off apparently. I remember waking out of my sleep suddenly, heart-racing and wondering why he wasn’t back yet. I was literally in a panic. My 1st thought? What if he got stopped by the police? What if he’s been locked up, injured or worse? 

The tragic thing about this is that my husband & I are beyond law-abiding citizens. He actually spent 15 years as a Cook County Sheriff back in Chicago. Why is the 1st thought in my head upon waking up is fear of those sworn to protect us?  Maybe I’m spending too much time following all the protests and news reports following the recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  Or maybe, just maybe, I am all too aware that despite our world travels and ridiculous numbers of degrees, we are not truly safe.  For many, are skin color makes us a threat, less than human.

We got pulled over a few weeks ago too. I remember tensing up as the police officer pulled up behind us. I kept my phone close, ready to hit record if things went south. My husband, with all of his law enforcement experience, spoke calmly to the officer, repeatedly saying things like, “I’m reaching for my wallet now”. I’m going into the glove compartment to get a copy of the registration”. Constantly explaining. Constantly trying to keep the police officer calm, for fear of escalation of a minor situation. For fear of becoming another hashtag.

Today is Sandra Bland’s birthday. She died “mysteriously” in a police holding cell after being pulled over a year ago. I’m livid that in 2016 blind compliance is expected of me, and those that look like me in order to survive some police encounters.  And guess what? That won’t even save me if I run across the wrong officer. 

Today is Sandra Bland’s birthday. I’m sorry Sandra, that you had to die. That you had to become another hashtag. That countless others came before and after you. 

Today is Sandra Bland’s birthday. America 2016.

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