My city has a curfew tonight.
There is rioting in my city for the second night in a row.
Protesters and agent provocateurs alike are smashing and grabbing in businesses in the part of the city I used to walk around at age 11, when my best friend and I started taking the bus downtown to window shop. At 16, when I had my first non-babysitting job, developing pictures at a one hour photo shop. At 48, taking my daughter to the Nutcracker.
And while I will be staying the hell away from all of that, I don't blame them. I don't think they are "disrespecting the memory of George Floyd." He was murdered by the very people who are supposed to uphold our laws. I don't think they are "diluting the power of their message." Their message is that the system is already broken, so why keep pretending?
I've been pulled over by police four times during my 35 years of driving.
I've never gotten a ticket.
Once I was hundreds of miles from home, with someone else's child in the front seat.
Once I couldn't produce proof of insurance.
Every time, I had clearly done exactly the thing I was being pulled over for.
(For the record: driving with high beams on, running a red light, driving with high beams on AGAIN, and driving with a broken taillight. I had reasons for all of these--the high beams thing AND the broken taillight both had to do with faulty wiring in aging vehicles--but they were all incontrovertible facts.)
Not only have I never gotten a ticket, THAT WOULD BE THE WORSE CASE SCENARIO FOR ME.
When the lights flash behind my car, this is what goes through my head: "Oh shit, I hope I don't get a ticket."
Not "I hope the cop doesn't look over my car and write me up for additional bullshit."
Not "I hope the cop doesn't call me names or belittle me or try to verbally provoke me."
Not "I hope the cop doesn't decide he doesn't like my tone, pull me out of the car, and and arrest me."
Not "I hope the cop doesn't pull his gun."
Not "I hope the cop doesn't kill my passenger."
Not "I hope the cop doesn't kill me."
And I KNOW, I know, that if I were a person of color--especially but not only a black man--all of those things would run through my head.
The last time I was pulled over, the time I couldn't find my damn insurance card, do you know what the nice young policeman said to me?
He said, "I saw this beat-up old pickup with a missing tail light and wanted to check out what was going on, but I'm not worried about someone like you."
Middle aged? Nope. A woman? Hardly.
He meant white. Basically he pulled me over because he thought I might be brown, and therefore suspicious, but once he saw I was white, he was happy to let me go. Even with no proof of insurance and no taillight.
So fuck being nice. Fuck playing by society's rules if society's rules on apply TO you, not FOR you. I'm not going to be breaking windows and looting, because I don't fucking have to. I live in a world in which I can at least pretend hard work will get me everything I need. But over and over, more and more, the world shows that this is not the truth for people who don't look like me. So if they want to shatter glass at the Apple Store and light fires in City Hall while Jeff Bezos continues to make billions as the rest of us lose jobs, I'm not going to clutch my pearls.
I don't know what the world is going to look like when this is over. I believe things could change. I believe things could revert right back to status quo. It will depend a lot on whether we worry more about ourselves or our society. Sure, my life is easier and safer when people don't riot in the streets. But how can I say that my comfort and security are more important than the very lives of my fellow citizens and human beings? That my right to go shopping downtown is more important than another's right to not fear for their life at every traffic stop? That being seen as a Nice White Lady is more honest than acknowledging that with one phone call, I can threaten the life of any black man in this country?