Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Prison Cell Built for Two

Dear Bloggers,

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, when you get married, you have a chance to learn more about yourself within those first few years than you might have in any other moment. Now, that might not be true for others who are not married, or who might not ever plan to get married, but it is definitely true for me.

While in college I was a Sociology minor and felt like my eyes were opened to all the injustices in the world. Learning how the world sees people along the lines of race, social status, gender and sexual orientation infuriated me. I began to participate in protest rallies about these injustices, and I would find my views broadened with each demonstration I attended. I decided at that time to make sure that whenever I saw an injustice, I would speak up, or at least try to do something in my power to help. However, I learned while I was married that the ones you speak up for could run the gambit of being hurt.

My husband and I initially secretly eloped. One day when both of our families thought we were working, when we actually had an off day, we ran to the courthouse and got our marriage license. Thinking that once we had the license, we were officially married, we went out to dinner and then back to his grandmother's home to hang out. During the late hours of 10pm in the next night, my growing hunger craved a McChicken, and he and I jumped in the car to satisfy my craving.

While driving, I noticed that he kept on looking behind us. Ed and I come from different backgrounds. I used to live in an upper middle class house, where each lawn was full with lush foliage and you could see your neighbors jogging at all hours of the day and night. When at Ed's grandmother's the sounds of gunfire was normal, and after a while, it became normal to me. So, when we noticed that we were being followed by the State police, Ed immediately started saying; "They're about to pull us over." I looked at him, thinking that he was being paranoid and I remember thinking: 'Why would the cops stop us? We didn't do anything wrong.' Right when I was about to relay that message to him, the State Boys turned their lights on behind us.

Still thinking that they were just trying to get pass us to stop a crime that had to be going on I pulled over. Before I knew it I heard a loud, booming authoritative voice yelling: "TURN YOUR CAR OFF NOW!!" Panicked, I told Ed to hand me my purse, which was in the backseat. "DON'T YOU DARE MOVE!! LOOK STRAIGHT AND DON'T MOVE!!"

I was shocked!! Every time that I've had an interaction with the police, it was always pretty positive. I associated them with helping me to find my way when I was lost and temporarily living in North Carolina, having a drink with me at a bar in Minnesota, and waving at me while I went jogging in my parents' neighborhood. But, at that moment, while they came towards my car with their hands on their guns, I realized that helping me to satisfy my Mickey D's craving was the furthest thing on their minds.

Afraid that they were going to drag me out of the car and slam me on my pregnant stomach, crushing my developing baby, I decided to be as charming as I could. Smiling as they shone their flashlights in my eyes, they asked me to step out of the car. Trying to be as nice as possible I stepped out, with my smile frozen on my face. My sister was in town, so I dressed up because we went to dinner earlier. Feeling glad that I wasn't wearing my pajamas, and that I didn't fluff out my afro, the cops began to talk to me as if I was a person.

After complimenting me on my dress, and my Thelma-from-Good-Times "adorable" afro puff, within the same breath, they asked me where I was heading. I told them, and then one cop went to the other side of the car to where my husband was. Hand back on his gun, I heard him yell for him not to move, while the other cop guided me away from the car and whispered to me that I hadn't really been stopped for a traffic infraction, but that they were the State police, and were interested in narcotics and firearms. Thinking how nice he was for sharing something about himself and about to reciprocate ("Well, I like rainbows, and watching movies...") he ask me if he could search my car.

Looking at the tiny economy car I drive, and wondering how the cops could mistake that for an artillery shop on wheels, I got alarmed by seeing my new husband handcuffed. "Umm... Sir, what is going on?"

"It's just a precaution. May we check your car?"

Wanting to read him the riot act of racial profiling, demand his badge number, and go to the cameras that I am all too familiar are in cops' cars (from too many hours of watching "World's Wildest Police Videos") and give a speech about how police should be helping to make a neighborhood where gun fire is the norm better, rather than harass a couple heading towards a fast food joint, I just said: "Sure, Sir. Check my car."

I knew there was nothing in the car, but the only solution that I could think to get my husband out of his portable prison was to allow them to check my car. As they found nothing, they took the handcuffs off of him, told me to be safe with driving to McDonald's, but hinted to the fact that I probably wouldn't get stopped if my husband wasn't in the car, and they and their backup drove away ("Wait... when did that other police car get here?!")

I promptly dropped him off at his grandmother's, and went to fulfill me and my baby's craving. The rest of the night, we talked about it. Ed found it normal, siting other times he suffered this injustice, and laughing at it. Through my bites, I announced how upset I was, but realizing that if I would have acted any way other than courteous, he probably would have been in a jail cell.

As we continue to drive, and I notice cops getting very close to my car, entering in my license plates for ANY reason to pull us over, I still get upset. However, I know that my inner vigilante needs to rest, because by being quiet, I'm actually protecting my husband more than any words I could ever say.


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