…..Staring racism in the face leaves a scar
I wanted to share something with you.
In 2009 I purchased my very first car, a red Ford Mustang. I named her Ruby. At the dealership that evening there was a system outage so I couldn’t sign my paperwork.
The dealership gave me dealer tags to have on the car and I would return the next day. I went to work and closed the store. As I was headed home to my apartment a car started following me closely, so I slowed down. They continued to ride my bumper. A few moments later the lights came on.
The stretch of the road was between Fuquay Varina and Raleigh and it was dark and nothing was around. My dad always told me to only stop in well-lit areas. So I turned on my hazards to acknowledge that I saw the officer and slowed down. I stayed on the road because I knew there was a 24 hour Walmart and a lot of gas stations about a mile ahead.
I got to the gas station and the officer hopped out of the car with his gun drawn, yelling at me. Moments later 5 more cop cars arrived. They too were yelling at me and I was so scared.
An officer proceeded to come to the car and told me I was resisting and I failed to comply. I explained that it was a dark road and I was by myself and that I had turned on my hazards so that he knew I acknowledged him.
He then proceeded to drill me about the car and blatantly wanted to know if I could afford it. I was in business casual clothes with my work badge around my neck. He even asked me the name of my supervisor and my work address. He expected answers while the gun was still drawn.
He then wanted to check to see if the car was stolen. When it didn’t show stolen I was told that my license was suspended and that I had to leave the vehicle.
I asked why my license was suspended and he would never give me a reason, but he told me I could not drive home.
All of the officers continued to stay. They lowered their guns but not their gaze. I had to sit outside of the car and listen to them shoot the breeze while still standing guard over me for nearly 90 minutes until my sister, brother-in-law, and my newborn niece arrived. My sister had to prove she could drive and they literally waited until she got in the driver seat before they directed me that I could get in the car. I was angry. I was exhausted.
I went to the courthouse the next day and waited in line for nearly 3 hours just to be told that my license was not suspended.
That officer just couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea that a 24-year-old Black woman could save her money, have a leadership position, and purchase a car. He never gave me a reason why he pulled me over. In fact, he drove by me, looked at me, and then slowed up enough to get behind and follow me before he ever turned on those terrifying blue lights.
Bag lady, you goin’ hurt your back. Draggin’ all em bags like that. I guess nobody ever told you, All you must hold on to, is you, is you, is you.Erykah badu, bag lady
That could have turned out in a million different ways. Not only do I have to consider price, insurance, and maintenance when buying a car I quickly realized that I have to consider if the value of the car will be worth my life.
After dealing with the police and spending my morning in the courthouse I then had to go to work as if nothing happened. I was still expected to be professional and courteous all while being terrified.
This is why I do the work that I do. Sometimes I feel as if I haven’t done enough. Admittedly there have been times that I haven’t spoken out or advocated for myself or others like me because I thought it would ruin my professional career.
Over the last few years, I realized that I won’t have a professional career if I’m not alive and that I won’t work for a company that can’t even acknowledge that my Black life matters.