Letters – Visitor pulled over for ‘DWA’
To the Editor:
I learned early in age to respect the laws of the land as well as those entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing them. I must admit that the foundations of my belief were shaken on a small stretch of highway 183 on a Sunday afternoon in Lockhart, Texas.
After attending church services, my family (wife and son) and I were heading home when
I noticed a Police Car maneuvering through traffic. When the police vehicle pulled behind me once we reached the apex of the overpass, the unthinkable, at least in my mind, occurred: He turned on his lights. At that point, many thoughts raced through my mind. Surely he wasn’t pulling me over? What had I done in the few blocks traveled since turning onto 183 that would warrant attention from law enforcement? I pulled into the nearest street after descending the overpass. The officer walked up to our vehicle and bellowed “license and insurance please.”
What had I done?
The officer answered that question. “In case you’re wondering,” he asked as he handed me the citation, “I clocked you at 50 in a 35 mile per hour zone.” As I sat quietly to digest what he had just said, thoughts again raced through my head. How had I gotten up to that speed within such a short (about 3/10 of a mile according to MapQuest) distance, especially with all those other cars on the road and two traffic lights? After receiving the citation, my emotions vacillating between anger and shock, I reviewed it to see just what the officer believed I had done. What I saw took me aback. There it was, right there on the ticket under the “Race/Ethnicity” heading, nestled between “Asian” and “Caucasian.” Much to my amazement, there was no box which reflected my commonly accepted race/ethnicity, but rather one which identified me as an “African.”
Hold on, I thought, they left off “American,” the same word that followed “Native” on the next line. Surely, I wondered, there was enough room to insert “American” behind African. Was this intentional or a mistake? Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t view Africa or the people that hail from there in any way, shape or form derogatorily, I just don’t think the manner in which I was described on the citation is accurate.
Whether I exceeded the 35 miles per hour (mph) speed limit or not is now a secondary issue, and, as much as the fighter in me hates to admit it, this officer said I did it and the court system will likely stand firmly behind him. Despite my strong desire for truth and justice to prevail, a larger more pressing issue looms: Does a certain amount of melanin qualify one as an “African” as far as the Police Department in Lockhart, Texas is concerned? That question must be answered by the “system.” What is currently going on at the police department in Lockhart must be highlighted, and all the stakeholders must come to the table to address this culturally sensitive issue. I trust that none of us wants the rest of the country to believe you can be pulled over for “Driving While African” in “the Barbeque Capital of Texas.”
As for me, I am still weighing my options.