Once upon a time, I drove a 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit because that’s all I had. There was a hole in the exhaust so it was loud on takeoff, but tolerable at higher speed, or so I thought.
Once upon a time, I grabbed my boyfriend and we headed towards a nice hiking spot we enjoyed, tooling up the mountain in my ’77 POS. Did I mention we lived in a really small (predominantly white) town, and most of us young people believed the cops delighted in stopping us for any little thing, busting our chops, giving us a hard time, and we learned to never EVER speed anywhere (even on the fringes of town) because it seemed all small town cops had it in for us teens? So on that fine sunny day as I headed up the mountain I got pulled over. Rolled down my window. I had no idea why on earth I was being stopped, there was no way I was speeding and I hadn’t committed any moving violations. I felt perplexed, pissed, and entitled to an answer. He said, “license, registration, and insurance card.” I asked him why he was pulling me over. He said, “license, registration, and insurance card,” and I asked him again, what did I do, what’s going on? He said, “license, registration, insurance card, or I will place you under arrest.” I was like, holy fuck, I guess I better produce. By this time, another police car came up behind me and I felt like I was being SWAT-teamed. I gave him my stuff and he was gone a long, long time. Those minutes stoked my rebellious, foolish, hard-core, female ire. He came back and produced three tickets (taillight out, loud exhaust, insurance card expired), and then I proceeded to open my young, inexperienced, stupid mouth, asking him things like don’t you have better things to do than harass me? And he told me about all the drunk drivers he’s caught because of taillights being out, and I said, “Yeah, well you missed one.” From that moment until the time I had to present my unapologetic ass to court and prove I replaced the taillight, my insurance had always been current, and patched the hole in the pipe, I fumed, preparing a speech to tell the judge about how unfairly I was treated, it was ridiculous how young people in our town are targeted, and so on. Everything happened so fast in court, I had no chance to speak my mind, got gavelled, and the next case was called. Buh-bye.
My mother, at that time, was a uniformed volunteer policemember. She was a flag-waving, hand-t0-heart, law-abiding, A-1 citizen, and when she found out how I behaved she verbally kicked my ass. She told me I should shut my mouth, keep my hands on the wheel and comply: “What the hell’samatter with you??” I learned the lesson the hard way, times four.
I have a hard time letting things go, so it took me a long time to see the light. A long time to realize that the police have a job; it ain’t fun, it can be dangerous, they’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, and there are rules both of us have to live by. Because we are human, we don’t apply the law equally. It took me a long time to learn I was wrong and what to do better next time. And it took me a long time to learn that if my skin was not white, things might have gone really, really badly for me. My cynicism hasn’t changed, but my behavior has. That doesn’t mean I don’t give a shit. It taught me to keep seeking answers.
My heart is breaking today, all day, and my understanding began with Trayvon. So now everyone can moan, roll their eyes and say I’m a whiny Black Lives Matter, white apologist, without regard to the dangers our persons in Blue face every day. Yeah. Go on. You can throw that at me. Don’t think for a minute I’m not aware of what every domestic disturbance might turn into because I saw it tumble out onto my neighbors lawn, I saw that shit firsthand, responding to car accidents, watching human lives expiring on the ground. The stress of being a person in Blue weighs on me, don’t doubt it for a second. My MOTHER instilled that in me. What I am is a woman with a teenager whom I love with all my heart, thinking about how I would feel if I lost him because he was shot to death for running his mouth off to The Man, like that white woman on a sunny day once did. I’m living in a place where there’s a shooting every other day, most non-fatal, and most not police related. The longer and harder I listen, the more I realize we don’t have a gun problem. We have a people problem. All of us, on all sides. This is one country, but we are divided, and I didn’t see it until recently. And we can’t fix this mess and heal it until we start listening, HEARING, and wanting to try and make it right. All of us. And we can’t blame EVERYTHING on guns, or police, or race, flawed laws, mental illness. It’s far too complicated for one pat answer. We can’t flip the light switch and make it right, people. Human beings are not black and white. Our needs, wants, loves, fears, behavior, art, beliefs– NOTHING is black and white. We are so complicated, and our responses will be just as complex. I just hope to god and the universe we decide to work through the complexity and find a way to make it right, to find peace.
Please consider what you might be able to contribute to humanity to make it a better little place.
Thank you for listening.