this weekend i took the kids to visit my sister in DC. we were in the car and the kids were asking how long it would take us to get where we were going. we told them 20 minutes, unless we got stuck in traffic or lost, etc. what we didn’t anticipate was getting pulled over.
i hadn’t even noticed the cop car behind us until it flashed its lights and blew its sirens. i assume that my 8 y/o son didn’t either, though i dont know for sure. at first we didn’t realize it was us they were pulling over. but we figured it out and pulled into some parking spots on the side of the street.
i have kids who say “fuck the police” when they see them passing by in their cars. and elijah had already revealed that he’d given this particular cop car pulling in behind us the finger. i quickly told them not to talk or interact with the police as we waited for them to sidle up to the car.
leaning down to speak with my sister about the smoky license plate cover she was illegally driving around with was a white male cop. standing silently outside my window was another officer, a man of color. the cop tried to insinuate that molly was hiding something with those tinted tags. but after throwing his weight around a bit, she got off with a verbal warning. when he was done with my sister he asked if he could have a conversation with her child.
which is when i jumped in and explained that that was my child in the backseat, that i knew what he had done and was supportive of his actions. either out of disbelief or upset, the officer asked for clarification. did i or did i not support my son giving him and his partner the finger? i did. i went on to explain that we’d been having a lot of conversations lately about how the police interact with different communities, when i was abruptly cut off by the cop standing on my side of the car. as soon as i’d made any reference to the reality of racist policing the officer outside my window who’d been silent the whole time immediately said, “we’re not going to talk about that.” which was also code for both officers to turn and walk back to their vehicle.
at first i was just startled by the abrupt departure, the trigger point of the conversation we could have had with the cops about how their actions impact how the population engages with them. and then there was the knowledge that if we weren’t white the whole situation would have been dangerous, as my partner reminded me when i texted him about the whole thing. i had no doubt that if my little boy were black he would have been pulled out of the back seat and that the cop would never have asked if he could have a conversation with e. he just would have taught a little 8 y/o boy what happens when you dont respect the police.
as i watch resistance to police brutality increase in communities that are not my own, as i wonder how to best support that resistance with my white body, i am left unsettled. i’ve seen the reports of white anarchists playing their tell tale role of outside agitator; i’ve heard the stories of white presence within the ferguson resistance inciting the police to even greater anger. ultimately i want to make the decision to place my state protected, beloved white woman’s body in between the police and the communities they are committing genocide against. but as i sit with the fact that my white boy got away with flipping off the police i wonder how best to use my white privilege when it comes to battling police brutality. how to use it without reinforcing it. because saturday’s traffic stop felt like a reinforcement of our white privilege instead of a blow against it.