I don’t live in a big city or cramped suburb—by choice. By being about 60 miles west of D.C., I’m given the opportunity to live in a tranquil living environment. I’m on a mountain, and my house is surrounded by a lake and untouched land. Unless it’s evening, I rarely need to turn on any lights because my house has floor-to-ceiling windows, so there’s never a lack of natural sunlight.
But with all of those amenities I surround myself with and lifestyle choices I’ve made, living in West Bumble F—k, Va., means there are more than enough racist-ass white people to deal with.
Early Wednesday evening, I pulled up to my son’s driving school about 15 minutes before he was to return from his lesson. I parked on the street and made sure there wasn’t a sign that said “No Parking.” I sat with my car turned off and was in the middle of conversing with a writer I edit, T.D. Williams. We had a few laughs and ended the conversation, and I continued to fumble around with my phone as I waited. A few minutes later, I noticed flashing lights. I looked up and glanced into my rearview mirror and saw a cop’s SUV sitting behind me.
Then my heart skipped a beat. “Here we go,” I said to myself.
The police officer walked to my car and said he’d received a report of a suspicious car. I looked around me. There were tons of cars parked behind me, and others in a lot next to me.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
“Yeah, I know,” he replied. Then asked why I was parked.
“There’s a curb and no sign that says I can’t,” I said. “But if it makes the person who called in feel better, I’ll pull into the lot.”
I wanted to ask him, “Yeah, you know what?” but I didn’t.
But I knew exactly why I looked suspicious. Here I was, a black woman, sitting in a red Mustang, in a neighborhood (not mine; I live outside of town) of lower-class white people.
The cop walked away. As I was about to start my car, he walked back to my window.
“Ma’am, can I see your identification?” the cop asked.
“Um … sure,” I replied suspiciously, like the suspicious woman I’ve become.
I then overheard the dispatcher read back my license plate to the cop. He verified that it was mine and told her I was just parked and waiting for my son to return from his lesson. Then he walked back to my window, handed me my license without saying a word, and got back into his SUV and drove off.
I am not an even-tempered person when I’ve been wronged. But at that moment I quelled any anger that was raging through my body. When the cop drove off, I pulled into the lot and parked my car. I got out of my car and walked to my previous space, took photos and noticed someone peering out of a window.
I then stood there, with both middle fingers in the air, pointed at the person. I’m quite sure they were the people who called the cops on me. I’m truly convinced that some white people want to live out a snuff-film fantasy in which they can see black people getting harassed by police, and are probably hoping to see bloodshed. But that will not happen at my expense.
To say I was enraged would be an understatement. I called friends. I went on a “FTP” and “F—k racist white people” rant. I was enraged because some poor, lower-class white person with his or her Trump lawn flag thought I was “suspicious.” And yes, I’m using those adjectives on purpose, because the person probably assumed that I was a “thug” in a fancy car, up to no good. So I’m going to make my own assumptions, too.
Thursday morning, I woke up and drove to the police station. Showed them my photos and explained what happened. The officer wasn’t on duty, but the person at the desk just shook her head. Before I left the station, the desk clerk asked what part of town I lived in. And I told her.
“Oh, it’s really nice up there,” she replied.
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I moved there,” I told her. “Please tell the officer, thanks for the nice welcome.”
Would it have been so hard for that cop to get back in his car when he saw that I was just sitting in my car, at a legal spot, minding my business? Of course not. But I didn’t have the right complexion for that to happen.