This was written in July, shortly after Sandra Bland’s tragic death. I wasn’t sure what or how to say this, so I said nothing. That is a horrible trap. Today I was inspired by a video clip from Kerby Jean-Raymond’s fashion show. He is the founder and head designer of Pyer Moss.
The following is my journal entry from July 29, 2015
I think I am on day three, because I don’t have an appetite anymore. I know that it is July 29, 2015. I am on a spiritual fast. I did this last two years ago in July. My diet has worsened, returned to old bad ways and I need to clean house. Internally, externally, mind, body and domicile.
I have a lot on my mind. I watched the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest about a day ago. I am really sad, so sad for so many reasons. I am the kind of person who gets angry because of my privilege. As a ‘light’ African American female, I think I pass the paper bag test, I get perks. Good placement in the traditional school photos. I get cute girl status, pick of the boys, and other benefits. I don’t say this in an arrogant way, I am just being honest and pissed.
I am honestly pissed off that we live in a world that this occurred and then pissed off that I could have been Sandra Bland too, I had a very similar occurrence, but because of the aforementioned societal perks of being a [high]yella red-bone, in a Lexus, at a private boarding school where I resided…well. You get where I’m going with this.
This is what happened to me about three years ago….
On my way home the road to campus entrance was blocked off, the sign said residential traffic only. I am African American, I was in Simsbury, Connecticut. Next to the sign was an officer standing, he was not directing traffic.
I imagine I was blaring music, because that’s what I do. I slowed, stopped and proceeded after reading the sign and acknowledging the officer with a nod. He yells, “HEY, RESIDINTIAL TRAFFIC ONLY”. [I am still a BLACK WOMAN IN SIMSBURY, CONNECTICUT, DRIVING A 5 YR OLD LEXUS] Now, like Sandra Bland, I am blucking (I know that’s not a word) pissed that this community servant is SCREAMING AT ME ABOUT GOING TO MY HOUSE. In response I yell, “I LIVE AT THE SCHOOL”, and peel off.
Shortly after I hear the sirens. The officer is behind me and approaches the car.
Officer: Ma’am, why were you speeding like that?
Me: Why did you yell at me for going home? (don’t forget, I’m privileged)
Office: The road was blocked ma’am
Me: The road was blocked for non-residential traffic, I LIVE HERE!!!!!
Officer: Ma’am you should not be speeding (he’s getting agitated, loud and says some other stuff I don’t remember)
Me You shouldn’t have yelled at me, you are a civil servant and work for the people. You were out of line and upset me. (I’m yelling). You should not have yelled at me (My voice turned to a quiver, my feelings were hurt.).
At this point the security guard, a man of color, steps out of the booth. There was a little more of an exchange, tempers calmed and the officer apologized. I thanked him and told him I would slow down. The security guard gave me a look, like, “…girl…you bold. Don’t you know who/what you are?”. I told him, “you know I’m crazy now, huh?” He then nodded and I drove home.
I started to look at all the data and the differences between Sandra Bland’s situation compared to mine. Economic, community make up, etc. Then I thought, it shouldn’t make a difference. That is the problem, there are differences for how people are treated.
I need to say that the Simsbury, Connecticut, police department has performed without incident since. It is one of the few communities that don’t snub you if you are a person of color. I lived in a community like that for over 10 years. It’s no coincidence that Martin Luther King, Jr. chose to stay in Simsbury during the summers of 1944 and 1947. He was greatly influenced in a positive manner and they have upheld the traditions of that time. They are small town good people, from my experience. I must also say the police department has been more than helpful and courteous in all other instances, and interactions. This was an isolated case.
The problem is this, if I were in a less expensive car, in a non-affluent area, with darker skin, things most likely would have been very different for me. I may have very well ended up dead, just like Sandra Bland. Her ‘crime’ was lesser than mine. She simply was looking for a job. I peeled off in the presence of an officer.