One of the hazards of having a business with products to sell is that occasionally I have to vend. The hazard isn’t in the vending, the hazard is in the travel and of course it’s always tough for a busy mom to leave midweek for a few days. None the less, I found myself packing up my 2015 Tahoe with books, filling my tank, devising alternate schedules for the kids, laying out school clothes all in preparation for two nights away for work.
Sometime, I look forward to the peaceful drive and hotel room, but for some reason, I truly wasn’t feeling this one. In fact, I reviewed the hotel cancellation policy and had I thought about it sooner, I probably would have backed out. South Carolina is a good four hours drive from my house and Tuesday is reserved for piano and violin lessons for the children. By the time I’d helped my husband feed and bathe babies it was going on 8 p.m.
The ride is smooth, barely any traffic and no rain. When I veer off I-95 to U.S. Route 501 in South Carolina it’s close to midnight and the highway signs read 55 MPH. I reduce my speed and set my cruise control to 62 MPH. I’m somewhat tired and for the first time, I turn on the radio to XM 47 and begin bopping to to lyrics from songs I partied to in college. Within 5 minutes I see blue lights behind me. At this very moment, I become fully aware of who I am, where I am and what I am driving. I dial my husband and put one earbud in my ear. “Hey, I’m being pulled by the police and I know I wasn’t going fast enough for a ticket, but just hold the line,” I say. My husband says “okay cool.”
Officer: May I have your license and registration?
Me: You can, but I’d really like to know why you stopped me.
Officer: I will tell you that after I see your license and registration.
I hand him my license and registration and he then says “You were speeding and going 68 MPH.”
Me: I’m sorry, but I had my cruise control set, so I know for a fact that I was not going nearly that fast. I was going 63 MPH.
Officer: It’s still speeding isn’t it?
Me: I suppose, but I know I wasn’t going as fast as you say I was.
He says he’ll be right back and I now feel free to speak my mind to my husband. “Ain’t this some bullshit, you know he is not going to give me a ticket and you KNOW I was not going nearly that fast.”
My Husband: “I know and you know what it is, but you have a family and children to get back home to so just keep your cool.”
A few moments pass and the officer re-appears.
Officer: “Mrs. Taylor, I’m gonna give you a warning ticket this time, but you may want to get your cruise control checked because you were going faster than you think you were.”
Me: “Thank you, but this is a 2015 Tahoe and I’m pretty sure my cruise control is accurate,” I snap back.
Officer: “Well maybe it’s your tires,” he replies.
Me: “No sir, these are not after market, they are factory, but I appreciate it. Thanks,” I say reaching for my blue written warning ticket.
I debrief my feelings about this unwarranted stop to my husband as I continue on my way. I realize that I am not angry about the stop not because of the outcome, but because I EXPECTED it. Yes, it’s a known fact that people of color are more likely to be stopped by law enforcement.
In fact, I have three African American females in my close circle that have had similar experiences in the same area. One was traveling with her elderly parents and teenage niece. She was stopped for having a sorority tag in the front of her car and asked to get out and if her car could be searched. When she refused, she was stopped less than 10 miles up the road for switching lanes. This time, K-9s were called in. None were given tickets and all felt the same as me, profiled.
I arrived to my destination about 30 minutes later and I can’t help but think about the differences people of color face every day in United States and the privileges allotted to others.
You see my first instinct when I saw blue lights behind me was to protect myself which is why I called my husband. So my natural inclination is to protect myself from those sworn to Serve and Protect??? I doubt that’s the first feeling my Caucasian friends have when stopped by law enforcement. My husband’s first inclination was to remind me to do what’s necessary to get back home safely. I also doubt that’s the first feeling my Caucasian friends have for their spouses during routine traffic stops.
Since I am a stickler for the rules, I want to be clear that my issue was not that Officer Lewis stopped me. My issue is that I don’t believe he stops everyone going 7 miles over the speed limit. I also don’t believe he gives them all traceable written warning tickets. My issue is that I live in a country that my daddy fought for, I work in, pay taxes in and I am still not allotted the same privileges as everyone else. My issue is that I have neighbors and friends that refuse to sympathize with real issues, feelings and challenges that people of color face in our country every day.