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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Driving While Black

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“Go vote!”

Those were the words a friend of mine shared as she shared a live video on Facebook.

Those two words, “go vote,” are not words any of us are unfamiliar with; however, the reason behind stating those words can vary from person to person.

My friend’s reasoning was heartfelt and deep — in large part because of an experience that occurred which led her, an otherwise very quiet and private person, to post the video live on Facebook.

My friend is an African-American woman who was driving through Fortville, Indiana, as she made her way to work. It was a sunny Tuesday, and all was well with her until she was unexpectedly pulled over by police.

The officer’s reasoning?

She “fit a description.”

What description?

It was never stated, but my friend knew why she was being pulled over. She was a Black woman, driving a nice Mercedes Benz through a small Indiana town that is predominately occupied by caucasians.

In other words, she was pulled over for DWB: Driving While Black.

As the police officer ran her license, my friend began the live video stream. As I watched her video, I could see the anger, the sadness and the stress in her face. I also saw strength and determination. As she explained what was happening, she calmly, but very strongly, said, “go vote.”

Her call to action was so important because she understands that the only way we will truly see a decrease in such profiling is by voting and electing responsible people into office who will affect positive change by instituting systems that will safeguard any person from being profiled or unfairly treated.

My friend understands that it truly doesn’t matter how much we complain, or even how often we post videos or pictures that illustrate the injustices of minorities — the one thing that will make a difference is putting policies in place to eliminate discrimination. Such policies include holding law enforcement — from the officers on the streets, to chiefs in the offices and mayors overseeing it all — accountable for their actions. The issue with discrimination against all people — minorities, the poor, women, homosexuals, etc. — will not end until we address every inch of the problem from every level, top to bottom.

Again, the only way to do that is to exercise our right to vote by actually going to the polling sites and casting our vote.

As my friend was posting, she said she has a husband and daughter she wants to live for. In other words, she had to be especially careful of everything she said and did in regards to being pulled over, because she didn’t want to agitate the officer or give him any reason to execute force upon her. My friend had read and seen media reports time after time of innocent people — who seemingly did not wrong — being shot with a stun gun, assaulted or even murdered by police. She didn’t want to be casualty. I find it especially sad and troubling that such thoughts have to run through someone’s mind during interactions with law enforcement — the very people who vow to protect and serve us.

My friend ended her recording by again stressing the importance of voting.

Eager to find out the outcome, I reached out to her. She informed me that upon asking the officer why she was being pulled over, he told her that it was a privilege, not a right, to drive in Indiana, and the law allows him to pull over and run anyone’s license without cause.

He then told her that because of recent car thefts, he checked her license and saw that the car was registered to a man and woman.

The car is registered to my friend and her husband, which is not unusual, yet the officer used that as a failed attempt at offering an excuse.

When my friend continued to ask questions, the officer became frustrated and told her he was done asking questions and she was free to go.

The reality is, she was physically free, but emotionally and even psychologically, she and millions of Black men and women throughout the United States are not free. Not even while driving.

I failed to mention that my friend is a college-educated, highly intelligent physician. For people who believe only thugs, gang members or ghetto people get pulled over without cause, my friend’s experience proves otherwise.

It is time for Americans in general to pull together to fight discrimination of any kind. It will take whites, Blacks, Hispanics, women, heterosexuals and homosexuals to join forces and call for equality. Only then can we begin to right this wrong!

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