Upon her traffic stop, Sandra Bland could possibly have shown a bit more of respect, complied with the request to put out the cigarette and been on her way. It may be asking a lot because the officer might have not stopped there and de-escalation is his job not hers. But, either way, I am certainly in no position to judge – given a stop in which I failed to shine in the late 1990s.
Pulled over around Midnight for speeding on High Ridge Road in Stamford, Connecticut, I – probably like Bland – had an axe to grind in showing my dissatisfaction. To me, the cops excessively issued tickets to line the coffers of the city, and I was finally asked to make my contribution.
As such, I handed over my license dismissively and then cranked my stereo way up high in hopes of creating my own minor disturbance. I can’t quite remember what else I did, but a second officer on the scene came over and told me that he had convinced the first officer not to impound my car.
Saving me the nightmare of being stranded in the middle of the night, I felt pretty stupid. Today, when the memory reemerges, I do all I can to file it in the depths of my consciousness in hopes that the discomfort might finally get repressed into the dustbin my unconscious. Not likely to happen, I wish I could find that cop 15 years later and apologize.
Adding to my guilt now, is all the time I have spent at town board meetings where officials struggle to maintain speed limits simply in an effort to minimize the danger of unsafe driving. By the way, I was actually rear ended on High Ridge Road a few years earlier, which didn’t spur any sort of connection at the time
My agenda completely flat.
On the other hand, the injustice Bland may have carried into the altercation are quite tangible. All one need do is look to Ferguson, Missouri where the city targeted African American drivers as policy to meet their budgetary needs.
But on a larger scale, the racial profiling of African American drivers is well documented. At the same time, a criminal justice system that has systematically turned a blind eye to white drug usage and imprisons African American and Latino users could tend to unsettle a black woman pulled over for failing to signal – especially since traffic stops are a key vehicle in perpetuating this massive crime against people of color.
(Please see Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow)
In the end, where ever you rate Bland’s interaction, what’s demonstrated is a far higher level of perfection is demanded of African American’s. We know this, in part, because of the conversation Black parents have with their children in regards to dealing with the police and how it could be the difference between life and death.
No such conversation exists in my background. and all I’ve been left with is a little bit of guilt. It’s clear that some of us are not so lucky.