Officer: “Mam, you were going 68 in a 55. Can I see your license and registration”?
Me: (window already down, license and registration already in my hand): “Sure” (tight-lipped smile).
Officer: “You were all ready for me”
6 minutes later…
Officer: “Mam, I’m giving you a ticket…blah blah womp womp. Thank you for being so nice about it. Most folks would’ve been cursing me out and fussing. Have a nice day.”
Me: “No problem. You as well”. (Fake, tight-lipped smile with a slight head nod).
As soon as a cop would pull me over, I used to fly off at the mouth: Why did you pull me over, I don’t see any signs, everybody else was speeding, I’m not familiar with the area (my favorite lie). I even argued in Court so good one time that I actually got out of a ticket by citing a prior case and the specific legal citation! But on Father’s Day, June 21, 2015, I kept my mouth closed. I gave the officer one word answers, telling him what he wanted to hear. All I kept thinking was that I didn’t want to become another Hashtag on Instagram and Twitter. I didn’t want to be a Facebook post that was shared a million times because of police violence. So I sat there, quiet, lips tight, compliant, with no argument. Who knows what kind of mood the officer was in that day? How do I know that I would have made it home if I had started asking questions?
I was listening to people call in to the radio and comment on the peculiar story of Sandra Bland. Most were in agreement that the officer was out of order. But, a lot of people also felt that if Sandra Bland had just “complied” with the officer, we wouldn’t be debating her death. This made me think: Why do I have to shut my mouth if I’m being treated unfairly?
I admit, there are some circumstances where I myself say, if you would’ve just shut up you wouldn’t have been in that situation. If we had “shut up” 50 years ago, we still wouldn’t be able to vote, attend school, and may have even still been picking cotton somewhere. If we would’ve “kept quiet”, we would still be riding segregated buses, drinking out of Colored water fountains, or getting food from the back of restaurants. If we would’ve ignored all of the injustices committed against us based on the color of our skin, we would still be in the same place we were 50 years ago or even worse, still saying “Yes Massa”. I REFUSE!
I realize a lot of people do NOT understand what it’s like to have to think about voicing my opinions because I don’t want to be “the angry Black woman”. They don’t understand what it feels like to hold my tongue when I KNOWWWW that I have been treated unfairly but I don’t say anything because I don’t want to be “That One”. Or, how I may have to smile extra hard or use proper grammar when I’m the minority in a room. A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to have “the talk” with your Black sons about how to interact with the police; telling them to just be quiet, and do what they are asked. They just don’t get that we told our kids not to wear hoodies after Trayvon was murdered. It’s very unfortunate that the conversations in most Black households about the police are very different from those of the majority race.
Why is that if I show you my ID and offer no threat (Martese Johnson) that my face gets slammed to the ground? Why is it that if I’m already handcuffed and not giving a fight (Oscar Grant), I get shot in my back? Why is it that when I ask the reason I am being detained or stopped (Eric Garner, Sandra Bland) I end up dead? And more importantly, if I am the victim of any injustice, why do some feel the need to question ME and my actions?
I encourage everyone to speak UP and speak OUT! Don’t let fear discourage you from speaking about injustices. Speaking out doesn’t always involve cursing someone out. Speaking UP and OUT is about choosing your battles wisely and understanding that sometimes there may be another option available. Speaking UP and OUT is learning to control your emotions. I know that sometimes, unfortunately, no matter what we do (put up our hands, surrender, comply, retreat, or march, riot) we still run the risk of becoming another #Hashtag/Facebook post. Whether it’s police brutality, discrimination, rape, inequality, or any other wrong you’ve experienced, speak UP! And for those that constantly say, “Well, you shouldn’t have been arguing” or “You should’ve just kept your mouth closed”, remember your ancestors that refused to be quiet, sit still, or shutup so that you could enjoy the many “freedoms” (I use this term loosely) you experience today!
“Get up, stand up, stand up for your right
Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight
Get up, stand up. Life is your right
So we can’t give up the fight” –Bob Marley
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