So, I’m a white lady, and I’m taking my also white teen daughter to an appointment. I’m driving a FIAT 500. I’m on back roads that I’ve known intimately for at least 25 years.
I wait at the traffic light, and then continue on the road that has four houses, two barns, a self-storage-unit business, and one unique attraction whose season has not yet come.
As I pull through the light, I see a police car coming the other way, and I slow down. I know I’m probably going too fast—maybe, like, 40. I’m thinking that this is probably a 30 or 35 zone. Police car passes, so I think I’m fine.
Half a mile later, I see blue lights flashing in my rear view mirror. I pull over.
While the cop is checking my tags, I: 1) reach into the back seat to get my bag; 2) rustle through my bag to find my wallet; 3) instruct my daughter to pull out the pleather case that holds my registration from the glove box; 4) fiddle with those things to have my license and registration ready when the officer asks for them.
I turn off the radio. As he approaches my car, I roll down the window. “License and registration, please.” As above I have them ready.
Then he volunteers why he pulled me over—doesn’t ask if I know why. Apparently there’s a 50-yard zone in which the speed limit is 20. I say, “Really?” and he says, “Yes.” and I say, “Is it posted?” and he says, “Yes, ma’am, in both directions.”*
Then he takes my license and registration to check me for priors, and while he is doing that I tell my daughter how I used to get out of speeding tickets when I was in my twenties by flashing some leg.**
I tell her that I should probably not do that today, at age 52. She agrees. Also, these days, I can afford the ticket.
Then he comes back and says, “Just a warning today, ma’am. Just slow down.”
“I will. Thank you, I appreciate it,” I say, hating myself a little inside, but not exactly sure why. After all, I really didn’t do anything wrong.
As we pull away, my daughter says, “That never would have gone down that way if we were black.”
She’s not wrong.
*I checked it out on the way home: yes, it’s marked, but only in my homebound direction. There is no sign on the other side of the street—the side on which I was traveling. It’s 45 mph from the first traffic light to the next.
**Hey, you have your standards of good motherhood; I have mine.