Late Tuesday evening (June 23), I set out for a night run and had an experience that I, as a white woman, have only seen in the news or read about. As I turned onto Adams, I saw police lights. As I approached the vehicle, I noticed the passenger was a younger Black man. Instantly I felt compelled in a way I have never felt before. To stop and make sure. Exactly of what, was unknown.
I watched two more police officers arrive, positioning themselves around the car. All three men who were in the car were frisked, one at a time. They remained calm and patient in a way I cannot fathom. The cops proceeded to search the inside of the car as these Black men watched, silently. Stoically.
One of the officers looked down the road at the car approaching — WITHOUT its lights on. Mind you, it is illegal to drive in Missouri at that time of night without your lights on. The officer flagged the car and the driver slowed to a stop, but never pulled over. Within seconds, the lights flip on and the young white man behind the wheel drives off.
Meanwhile, these three Black young men are awaiting for their fate to be determined. The officer tells them to get back in their vehicle, quickly consults with the other officers, writes a ticket, hands it to the young Black man driving and the scene is over.
I sat there in shock. This scene did not escalate — it never should. But the juxtaposition of the three young Black men getting pulled over, being individually frisked and then watching their car get searched while the young white man got a friendly reminder and continued on his way is a clear example of racism The white man was not stopped. The white man was not frisked. The white man did not have his car searched. And the Black boys watched this all happen.
I do not balk at the first car being pulled over and ticketed, but there is clearly an issue of race here. It was either deeply rooted in the subconscious or a blatant choice by the three officers. And while they didn’t seem like “bad apples,” as so many folks are apt to say these days, it is important to remind ourselves that the full expression is “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.” The spoils of racism hide everywhere. It is just to shine the light on it or we will continue to head down the road in darkness and miss the injustice on the side of the road.