Picture this. Last Friday morning I was driving down the interstate in Atlanta with my sunroof back, my windows cracked, and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” blasting on my radio. It was a beautiful day and I was in full “T.G.I.F.” mode. I was sitting in rush hour traffic (make that hours—I do live in Atlanta afterall), when I noticed a police officer had pulled over a car in the far right lane. So what did I do? Without hesitation, I rolled my passenger window down even more, lowered the volume on my radio, picked up my cell phone and placed my thumb near the record button. I mean, I was ready....ready to record whatever transpired. If something was about to go down, believe me, I was going to capture it! Police brutality? Nah. Not on my watch!
A white male officer exited his vehicle and began to walk towards the car. My heart started beating faster as I approached the car that was pulled over. When I got beside the vehicle, I looked over and made eye contact with a young woman. She appeared to be calmly watching the police officer through her driver side mirror. I said to myself, “Aw, h-ll, she’ll be alright”, immediately put my phone down, turned up my music, and rolled up my window—not because the driver seemed unbothered, but because she was white. See, I figured a white female who was pulled over by the police may leave the scene with a warning or perhaps even a ticket, but definitely her life. Had she been black, I’m not so sure of the latter these days. When I think about it, I don’t know what saddens me more, the fact that I felt the need to videotape a routine traffic stop in 2017 or that I rolled up my window when I saw that the driver didn’t have skin like mine. Either way, these are the times in which we are living and anyone who doesn’t think that being Black in America still entails dealing with racial profiling and social injustice is sadly mistaken.
So, what does it mean to be Black in America? Now, don’t get me wrong. Despite the many obstacles we are forced to surmount on a regular basis, I am proud to be a Black woman. There isn’t anything I would rather be. Think about it. Who in her right mind would give up all of this magic?! Seriously, people pay good money for this magic and it was bestowed upon me by God. *adjusts crown* Yeah, I think I’ll keep it. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get disheartened at times. It doesn’t mean that I don’t wish things were different for Black people in this country. It doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize how far we have come as a people, yet how far we still have to go. It doesn’t mean that I don’t find myself full of rage and despair while watching numerous criminals, yes criminals, be acquitted for murdering innocent black men and women over and over again. To me, being Black in America means shedding countless tears for strangers whose lives have been taken by the very people who are suppposed to protect them. It means worrying that it could happen to me or one of my loved ones one day. It means praying that my 3 older brothers make it back safely every time they leave their homes, even when they are just going down the street to the grocery store. “Be careful!” I hear myself saying to them at times. “Hurry back!” Being black in America means having difficult conversations with my younger cousins, nieces and nephews about police brutality and the society in which we live. I tell them, “Listen, if you’re ever pulled over, keep your hands on the steering wheel.” “Don’t argue with the police officer.” “Don’t make any sudden moves.” It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting at times.
This brings me to the season premiere of “Queen Sugar”. Talk about art imitating life.
In case you missed it, on last night’s episode of “Queen Sugar,” Micah, Charley’s teenaged son, was pulled over for a D.W.B., “Driving While Black”. Meaning, he was driving an expensive vehicle while being, well, black. Period. The police officer drew his weapon and ordered Micah out of the car. He handcuffed him and took him to jail. To make matters worse, we never did hear the officer state why he pulled Micah over in the first place.
The episode was very timely as the police officer who killed Philando Castile was just acquitted last week. When I heard the verdict, I wish I could say I was surprised but I wasn’t. It was a different story with the same ending we hear time after time, and my heart hurts for his loved ones. Therefore, to say that my emotions were raw while watching “Queen Sugar” is an understatement. And based on the social media posts I read, I wasn’t alone. The problem is, the scenario that unfolded on a fictional television show happens way too often in real life in the United States of America, “land of the free” (unless you have too much melanin, that is).
So, for me, being Black in America means struggling to understand the how sometimes. How was Dylann Roof, the young white man who took the lives of 9 innocent parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, apprehended unscathed but Philando Castile was killed in his car after voluntarily announcing to the police officer that he had a gun (which he had a permit to carry)? I don’t know about you, but I doubt a person who intended to shoot a police officer would have announced that he had a weapon, but I digress.
Honestly, I may not know the how but I’m pretty sure I know the why. With that being said, all I need to know now is the when. When will it finally stop?