A White Woman, Racism and a Poodle — FranklyWrite

This post by Cynthia Franks is a must read. Please read the entire post, following the link. What we white folks just don’t normally see. Let our eyes be opened. Let us be part of making change happen, in the heart as well as in policy and procedure.

I have not told this story before. I worry how it will be received. I don’t know the right language to express it other than my own thoughts and feelings. This post is not for people of color because they already know it. This is for white people living in suburbs and small towns who think this is a big city problem and “It’s not my town.”

Before moving to New York City, I drove every where. I got pulled over 3 times in 15 years; two speeding tickets and an illegal left hand turn.

The first year I was back in Michigan, I got pulled over 5 times. Each time it was for impeding traffic and I did not get a ticket.

I drove a dark grey, 1998 Chevy Venture van that was in storage for several years. It was in good shape.

The traffic stops were unlike any I had experienced in the past. The first one was in Monroe County on Dixie Highway near Sterling State Park. I was coming home from the park with my dogs. The sun was setting and it was twilight. My Poodle, Merlin, sat in the passenger seat and Indy, a Jack Russel Terrier, was in the back. I was driving down Dixie Highway at 50 mph, which is the speed limit. Flashing lights popped up behind me. My heart raced. What did I do? I pulled over and tried to calm down; I didn’t want to look suspicious.

It was a Monroe County Sheriff. I thought one of my running lights was out. As the sheriff approached my van, he unfastened the top of the holster of his gun. I had not experienced this before. I wrote it off as the new standard procedure on all traffic stops. Or maybe this guy was a cowboy. I said as little as possible.

I waited for the, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” This officer asked where I was going. He looked in the window and flashed his light on Merlin and his demeanor changed. The stern look on his face disappeared, but he seemed…annoyed… I guess is the best word. I thought I was going to get a ticket for Merlin being in the front seat. He didn’t ask if I’d been drinking or had any weapons. He asked to see my license, looked at it under his flashlight and handed it back. Then he explained he pulled me over because I was going 3 miles under the speed limit and was impeding traffic. There were no other cars on the road. I said I was not aware of it. He told me to keep an eye on it and that he was giving me a warning. I thanked him. He walked back to his car.

I remember being confused about it, but since I didn’t get a ticket, I didn’t think to much about it. Impeding traffic, never heard of it before.

Same thing happened in Flat Rock and Huron Township. Impeding traffic, didn’t get a ticket. On the third stop, I asked one of the officers if impeding traffic was a new law in Michigan and he got a little snappy with me. The oddest one was the second time I got stopped in Huron Township.

Merlin was a tall dog who often sat in the passenger seat. When he was in the passenger seat or the back seat, he was tall enough to be mistaken for a person, especially at night. When the officer got to my window he asked, “Who’s in the back? I said, “No one. Just my dogs.” He asked me two more times. “Who’s in the back?” And I said, “It’s a dog.” He asked me to take the dog out of the vehicle.  […]

Read the remainder of this post at this link: A White Woman, Racism and a Poodle — FranklyWrite

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17 Responses to A White Woman, Racism and a Poodle — FranklyWrite

  1. debscarey says:

    I am consistently grateful that our police do not carry weapons here in the UK and it is tales like this one which remind me of that gratitude. It’s not perfect over here by any means, but I’ll continue to be grateful for small mercies.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I couldn’t agree more. By the police not carrying guns there’s automatically far less chance of someone being killed, not just hurt but killed. Bravo to the UK for that policy.

  2. Jean says:

    What a sad state of affairs….a black poodle dog assumed to be a black man. But worse, any black man or woman shouldn’t first cause this type of police attention if they weren’t exceeding speed limit or flouting any other rules.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. Horrifyingly, this is not only a common experience for people of colour in the US but also in Canada. There was even a story in our local paper about the experiences of being black in Fredericton this weekend that included similar stories of being stoped for no reason. Breaks your heart.

  3. WOW, what a powerful story. I just shared this with my 22 year old daughter. One time my husband witnessed an officer here in Phoenix get really angry at another man who was an African American. The sad thing is, was that both this man and my husband were trying to help an older woman who became confused in an intersection while driving and abandoned her vehicle right in the middle of busy traffic. Both my husband and this African American man tried to get out to help her when a police officer drove up and got out of his vehicle with his gun drawn and raging to the black man mostly, told him and my husband to get back in their vehicles. They tried to explain what was going on, my husband that is, because the black man was terrified as soon as he saw the weapon. When my husband came home he was also scared because he said it is so easy for a situation to get out of hand and someone gets shot.
    My cousin is married to a fireman and they have lots of friends in the department that are being threatened right now. She is very upset about how there are bad cops but there are also good ones too. Changes do need to be made that’s for sure. Thank you for sharing this, what a story. I need to share this one with others in my monthly updates posts and favorite posts. It is a very powerful piece and does make one think harder about what is happening. I can not even express in words how horrible it must be to have to see the people that are there to protect and serve be someone who may very well harm instead. I have no words to even express what that feels like. All I can do is agree that Yes, things do need to change. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      OMG, LRH, your story about your husband and the other good samaritain in Phoenix is just about as powerful. Oh, my God, that is frightening beyond belief. Just goes to show how prevalent this overuse of aggression is. This can’t help anyone. I get the pain of good policemen and women being stereotyped, but they should become part of the solution. A societal solution is needed. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. jane tims says:

    The times I have been pulled over (for a reason or for no reason) I am always heart-pounding terrified. I have grown up to think of the police as friends, and I feel this way. What would it be like if I knew them as enemy?

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What an important point, Jane. Many of us do have that instinctive reaction, and that’s with no expectation of an aggressive or adversarial exchange -or worse. It’s impossible for us to walk in those shoes, but we have to try in order to understand. Thanks for your input.

  5. Now that’s crazy.

  6. Paula Stokes says:

    I love this. Thank you for posting this.

  7. conover1310@gmail.com says:

    Incredible….Awful….Bel

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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