Over the weekend, I drove to Cleveland with a friend for her adopted grandmother’s funeral. On our way back, driving through Ohio, I got pulled over by a cop for speeding. In light of everything that’s been happening around the country, my friend and I were understandably a little nervous. To make matters worse, prior to this, I had put my wallet in my bag in the trunk of the car. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But now I found myself thinking, “This is how people die. It’s coincidences like this that get people shot.”
So my friend pulls out her phone, sits it on her lap and starts recording just in case something goes down.
The cop comes over and says, “I just wanted to stop you because you were doing a little speeding back there. Do you have your license?”
And I reply, “Yes, but I left it in the trunk of my car.” There was no way of making that sound more suspicious.
“Do you have anything else with your picture and full name?” he asks.
I shake my head, pretending to look for stuff in the car, but knowing there’s nothing. He starts to say something, but I don’t hear him and then, by some stroke of fortunate misunderstanding, I realize that my wallet is actually in the cupholder.
“Oh here it is,” I say. And I hand him my license.
He goes back to his car and my friend and I joke about what we’ll do if this goes south, if both of us will die or just me, if she’ll drive away with my body or run into the fields, how this conversation will sound to viewers when they play it back on CNN, and then the officer comes back.
He gives me the ticket and everything is fine and dandy until he looks at my friend, smiles, and says, with all seirousness, “Is this your mom?”
Mildly offended and forcing out laughter, my friend explains that she indeed is not my mother and we all have a good time teasing each other about it.
In the end, depsite our nervousness, nothing bad happened that day—besides getting the ticket, of course. The officer was incredibly friendly and warm—borderline Mr. Rogers friendly. But as he walked away, I found myself wishing that I’d told him that. But I missed my chance. And I wasn’t about to get out of my car and walk up to him to tell him, either.
So this is what I wish I had said to the officer. I would’ve told him that he’s a good officer, and that on behalf of all black men and women in this country, we know that not all cops are bad. We know that not all cops are racist and we know that not all cops are controlled by fear. I’m grateful that I live in a country with a government stable enough to have police officers in the first place and not be run by gangs. I’m grateful that you treated us with respect and didn’t jump to conclusions. I’m grateful that you had a sense of humor and were willing to joke with us. And I pray that God blesses and protects you and your fmaily as you keep doing a good job at serving and protecting others.
Thank you, Officer Steve.