Several years ago I was stopped by the police.
I was just driving along and bam - pulled over.
Well, actually I was speeding a bit - but downhill. And I was only coasting. And I was on my way to jury duty...where I was juror number 5 in a first degree murder trial. Where the accused were young Hispanic and Black men, and a drug deal gone terribly wrong. It was, however, their good fortune to have committed this (alleged) crime in New Hampshire, where the 98% white populations was Sure to give them a fair and equitable trial. And They pulled me. The white wife of one of the Two Black dudes who lived in all of Strafford.
So there I was, on my way to perform my enforced civic duty when I was so rudely pulled over. And given a ticket. Which seemed wildly unfair to me, given where I was going. Did he realize the photos of blood and brain I had to look at for the past week? That I had to stick my head in a tiny Ford Escort, and look down on the seat where one man died after being shot in the head and neck and two others fled the scene. That my delicate white lady sensibility had been roundly abused by having to learn details of drug deals and babys mommas, my ears assaulted by slang terms like "crush", meaning "to have sex" and why these young men were wearing such baggy trousers as was the style in their "group".
Flash forward to months later when the trial was long over and I was to have my day in court to protest my ticket. I dressed carefully that day. I wore a lovely light purple velveteen dress with matching purple leather pumps. I was wearing the pearls with the matching earrings that my husband had given me for a Christmas years prior. As it was winter, I had my cashmere long coat on with a small, but tasteful, bag to finish the look.
I arrived at the courthouse and presented my bag for inspection. I smiled and flirted with the elderly court guard. I am not a flirty woman, but I was prepared for what I was marching in to battle and a bit of practice couldn't hurt.
I was handed my purse and wished good luck by the baliff. I walked into the courtroom and walked to the front to await my turn. The judge had not yet arrived, so I glanced to my left and right, seeing the police officer who had detained and ticketed me over to the right. There were other people too seated towards the back. Women and men - all white, but dressed in a terrible choice of clothes. Lots of Denim, sneakers and Nascar shirts. Were they aware they were in court?
I was called first - Naturally. I was sitting right up front, after all. The prosecutor offerred his summary of the case - That I was speeding and was given a ticket. I walked across the court room and was sworn in. I sat in the witness box, and offerred my response. Which was that I "might" have been speeding, a little. But That I was a juror on this murder trial and it was very stressful...and that I just don't normally break the law, but this trial - you see - the pictures. Plus I work for the State , part of DCYF (which houses child protection). I help enforce the laws.
I smiled at the judge. I may have even cocked my head to show my earrings and matching necklace.
The judge smiled back. "No more Speeding, Ma'am - we want you to get home to your family safe and sound!"
I smiled back. I nodded.
He dismissed the ticket and I walked out a vindicated woman.
There is sarcasm and irony in this story. There is also a bit of self acknowledged shame that I played my part so well. I went into that court room to portray a very specific image, which I achieved most successfully. As the wife of a Black American , I have been in the car ( or right behind) when He has been stopped for DWB (Driving while Black). I have seen him waved through the airport security when he is with me or our daughter, but stopped and searched when he is alone. I deserved that ticket. I WAS speeding. My skin color and socio-economic status were my free pass that day in the courtroom. As to the trial in which I was a juror, I have written about that before here. I am still a bit haunted by what happened in the jury room.