We just arrived home yesterday from our family vacation on the coast of Florida. For some crazy reason we decided to drive the 788 miles from Texas with our three kids. My husband thought it would be a good idea to leave around 2am so the kids could sleep for the first leg of the trip. So off we went last Saturday in the middle of the night.
We hadn’t been driving for more than an hour when we got pulled over. We were on the side of the highway so the officer came to my side of the car. I had my window rolled down and he asked us to roll the window down behind us (they are heavily tinted). He shined his light in the back where all three kids were sleeping. I was already annoyed (mostly at my husband for speeding) but at this point I snapped at the officer telling him that my baby was asleep. He immediately let us roll the windows back up and asked us where we were headed. We told him we were going to Florida on vacation. Then he explained to my husband that he was going over 15 miles above the speed limit and that’s why he stopped us. He asked if there were any weapons in the car to which my husband replied yes and pointed to the glove box. He asked him if he had a concealed weapons permit and my husband said no. End of conversation. He looked at my husband’s license and sent us off with a warning telling us to be safe. And that was that.
My goal in sharing this is not to condemn the officer who pulled us over or make broad generalizations about the mindsets of our police force who risk their lives each day. But as the week went on and the tragedies started happening I really began to wonder if our traffic stop would have been different if our skin was a different color. I was outraged, devastated, and felt completely helpless. I looked around and everyone everywhere seemed to be enjoying their vacation without a care in the world but I couldn’t stop thinking about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. My husband patiently listened to me sort through everything that happened. I monopolized conversations and sobbed through our date. Then finally he gently pointed out that this is not a police problem or a black problem or a white problem, it’s a heart problem. We have barriers up that prevent us from uniting but we must begin to break down the walls that divide us if we ever want peace. And I realize now that this change has to start from within. So I made a list, because that’s what I do, and I’m sharing in case anyone else is struggling with where to go from here. Here goes:
– I will teach my children from a non-European perspective, our country’s real history and how it was founded on the exploitation of African slaves and indigenous people.
– I will commit to seeing things not through my own privileged lenses but through others whose life experiences and realities are so much different than mine.
– I will strive to make real, genuine friendships with people who are not like me even when it is outside my comfort zone.
– I will wrap my arms around the people I know in my community who are affected the most by prejudices – my black brothers and sisters, my LGBT brothers and sisters, my Hispanic brothers and sisters and the police officers I have the privilege of knowing.
– I will try to spot and overcome my own racial biases that were ingrained in me and be brave enough to confront them.
– I will surround myself with people who challenge me and gently guide me to think outside my very small worldview as a white American.
– I will remember that everyone’s individual experiences shape how they see the world and be kind and patient with those who see things differently than me.
– I will engage in rational, non-emotional dialogue with others who’s views may be different than mine in hopes that we can better understand each other.
– I will choose unity over division always.