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driving while black

On Not Getting It and the Stay-Safe Sequence

KD – Square Images-07

Written by Kelly Diels

driving while black

My husband, my son.

One night, when I was pregnant, my husband went out to get gas. We’re Canadian and it was our weekly habit to go across the border to the US to fill up. We liked to do that late Sunday nights because there’s no line-up at the border. But I was pregnant and not feeling or sleeping well, so I went to bed and he went for gas.

He phoned me at 11pm, just as I’d finally fallen asleep. He was upset. He’d been pulled over in the US for speeding.

I was irritated. You woke me up for that? Pay the ticket and move on.

In the morning I opened my eyes and he was laying on his side looking at me. He’d obviously been awake for a while.

“Baby,” he said, “I was scared.”

It was 2014. Michael Brown, Eric Gardner. He saw the police officer walking up to the car with his hand on the gun.

Before the officer even got to the car, my husband had run through the sequence. He’d laid out the insurance papers and his driver’s license on the dash. He’d taken down his hoodie. He had the windows rolled down and his hands clearly visible on the steering wheel. He didn’t want to have to make any sudden movements or any movements at all.

Because he was scared.

And then, after he got the ticket – the officer was kind, polite – my husband called me. He was coming down off the scared, you know?

And I was irritated. I didn’t get it.

And I live with him. I love him.

I didn’t get it because I’ve never, ever felt that fear or been drilled in that stay-safe sequence. It has never occurred to me when an officer approaches the car that I might die.

This is reality for black and brown people. They are not safe – not even from the people who are supposed to keep us all safe – and they know it.

This is my husband and my son and I still didn’t get it. I was complicit.

No more.

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