Dear Darling Children,
When I was 25 years old I made a cross country drive from Arizona to Florida. Alexander Marco, my darling little chihuahua maltese, was riding shotgun. While traveling through Texas I was chatting with my friend Leslie. Even though it was (and still is) illegal I was talking to her with headphones on, thus drowning out everything else around me. I have a hard time obeying speed limits, so I wasn’t terribly surprised when I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw police lights flashing. Feeling nothing but annoyance for getting caught I told Leslie I would call her back in a few minutes. I pulled over, grabbed my license and insurance, lowered my window and impatiently waited for the officer to get out of his car so I could start trying to flirt my way out of the ticket.
Then I heard the yelling.
“Get out of the car! Get out of the fucking car!” (Don’t curse, it’s tacky.)
I was confused.
Not scared (that’s important).
Confused and slightly annoyed. I started to open my door.
“Put your hands up! Hands up where I can see them! Now!”
Still annoyed, I opened the door the rest of the way with my foot and got out slowly with my hands up (and with an angry, put out expression on my face because who did this cop think he was to yell at me like that?).
The moment I stood up and was completely out of my car was the moment Alexander Marco chose to leap out of the car as well, straight into oncoming traffic.
All hell broke loose. My hands went down as I ran after Alex, another police car flew up with the officer jumping out and pointing his gun at me, I’m still running around trying to grab Alex and when I finally catch him I scream at the officers.
“WHAT is WRONG with YOU!? I have to GET MY DOG, PUT YOUR STUPID GUNS DOWN!”
And they did. They lowered their guns. The one who had stopped me in the first place ran a hand through his thinning hair and stared at me.
Me. A lovely white girl, shoeless because I had a blister on my ankle, with long red hair and a short blue dress that the wind was lightly kicking up.
He told me I had been driving 75 in a 55 zone, and had been doing so for almost 10 minutes. My car was packed up high with all of my belongings so the officer couldn’t see in the back window. He had been following me with his lights and sirens blaring for at least 10 minutes (but I hadn’t heard because of the illegal headphones I was sporting). He said he was about to shoot out my tires when I finally pulled over, that he thought I was running from him.
He said it like a joke.
“Girl, you were 5 seconds from getting your tires shot out!”
Laughs. Everyone was safe, crisis averted.
I wasn’t able to talk my way out of the ticket. I also never paid it. My husband paid it for me after we were married because he had gotten a job in Texas and I mentioned that there was probably a warrant for my arrest there due to this delinquent ticket. I never worried about getting arrested, though.
Because I’m a white, educated, upper middle class woman and I don’t have to worry about those things.
I used to tell this story as an amusing anecdote at social gatherings. Me!? Sweet SARAH, almost gunned down by the police, how PREPOSTEROUS and SILLY. In the last year, though, it has taken on a sinister tone and I instead tell it to those who mention how they don’t understand what white privilege is.
Looking back, if the officer had shot me dead, I can see how HIS story would have played out and I would have 100% been at fault. It would eventually come out that the entire thing was a horrible misunderstanding but the result would be the same. He was scared. He had reason to be. I was arrogant. I shouldn’t have been.
Had I been a large black man, under the exact same circumstances, would the result have been the same? My head and heart tell me that it wouldn’t have been, but I still stand by my statement than any force used would have been justified. So the story now leaves me conflicted, because I believe the only reason I’m alive (or, at best, don’t have a jail record) is because I’m a white female (sexism can on rare occasions can be extremely favorable).
I think it’s important to note that this entry is in no way meaning to comment on any specific event that has happened in the last few years. It is only meant to share my own personal experience. I don’t always succeed at not expressing my opinion on hot topic events that I’ll personally never have enough information on to make an educated assumption about, but this entry is definitely not a comment on…any of that.
Though obviously all of those events combined is what made me start thinking about my own story again after so many years.
It’s a lottery, where you’re born, who you’re born to. My children both struck gold being born into our family. There isn’t a reason for them to feel guilty about it, to apologize for it. This is just life.
But they should be taught to respect the life they have. To be grateful. To be aware.
In the moments that I clearly see so much hate, fear, injustice and sadness in the world the helplessness I feel is paralyzing to the point where I want to crawl into the pantry, close the door and cry. But that doesn’t help anything or anyone.
The world is changing fast, both for the better and for the worse. People are passionate, they see injustice and loudly fight for change. Others who have far more power spew hatred, fear and lies. This is life and the only way for it to change is for us to raise our children better, braver, smarter and wiser.
So…let’s do that.
Try to make the world a better & happier place today, Darling Children, one good deed at a time.
I promise to raise you to be smart, adventurous, brave and wise. I will raise you to be a fearless leader who will help march the world into a better, less scary place.
“Small steps are better than no steps at all so drop the iPad and do something productive .” – Me
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy