Saturday, September 5, 2015

Res ipsa loquitor.

res ip·sa lo·qui·tur
ˌrēz ˌipsə ˈläkwitər,ˌrās,ˈlōkwəˌto͝or/

Latin, literal translation meaning: The thing speaks for itself.


The BHE and I got into an argument the other day. And, honestly, we don't really argue much. But on that day, we did.


It wasn't about money. He hadn't left his shorts and underwear intertwined in a ball on the floor of the bathroom. Nor had he stared too intently at some strange reality television show like "Alone, Naked, Afraid, Bored and In the Wildnerness for No Apparent Reason" while I was trying to talk to him about something serious.


It wasn't a kid argument. That is, one where I think we should do one thing and he thinks another. He didn't run late with something or interrupt some plan I'd had to join a girlfriend for much needed me time. Nor had he offered some backhanded compliment to one of the thirty-minute meals I'd prepared after racing home, checking homework, and situating school items for the following day.


It was a bona fide argument. The kind where one person is incensed and the other just a little too indifferent or indignant which only makes things worse. And you know the worst part about this whole thing? We were both right.


Let me explain:

A few friends were passing through Atlanta last week. These were some of Harry's old pals from Cleveland and he was excited that things would work out for him to be able to meet up with them. And yes, it was a school night and sure, both boys had their respective sports practices but it was all good considering the plan to link up wasn't until after the kids would be turning in for bed. Simple enough, right? Right.

Okay, so check it. That all goes as planned. The BHE goes to football practice with Zachary, I go to cross country with Isaiah and we all meet back up at home. I checked homework while he showered and got ready to head out. And that's exactly what he did.

The outing went well. Those guys yucked it up past midnight and Harry got home exactly around the time he'd told me he would. And upon his arrival, I turned over and mumbled over my shoulder, "Did you have fun?" to which my love replied, "Yeah. It was really great to see my friends." And that was good.


And so. The following morning after the kids had gotten off, we were both sitting around the house having coffee since we both had later work obligations that day. In my more wakeful state, I asked more details of his evening and he obliged me. He was smiling and animated and happy. And since we both believe that this kind of time--that is, time away from your spouse and kids with your friends--is important, that made me feel good, too.

But then there was a shift. Harry wiped his face, shook his head and said, "But, man. I had something crazy happen last night, too."

And he uttered that in this light way so I sipped my coffee and raised my eyebrows nudging his story forward. Which he did.

"So I'm driving home, right? And it was kind of late like. . .I don't know. . .maybe 1? 1:30?"

"Not much after," I interjected. "I remember when you came in and I know I would have freaked if it was later than that."

"Anyways. So I'm just listening to music and driving. Next thing I know I saw a police car behind me. And, you know, I noticed it but was like whatever."

Now I was sitting upright. I placed my coffee down in front of me and cocked my head sideways. "Okay."

"Well. Even though I had met my friends out for a few beers, you know I'm not a big drinker.  But even with my friends there, whatever reason didn't have one drink. I mean, not any alcohol--not a single drop. So that police dude turns on his lights to pull me over and I didn't even worry for two seconds since I knew I hadn't done anything."

"Were you driving crazy or texting?"

"Texting? Hell no. And that's you who drives crazy not me."

"So he pulled you over?"

"Yeah. Pulls me over at like 1 something in the morning. And, again, I'm mostly aggravated since I was tired and ready to get home."

"Was your seatbelt on?"

"My seatbelt?" He furrowed his brow at me. "Babe! Of course. Okay, so listen. Dude comes up to my window and gestures for me to roll it down. So I bring down the window and just look at him, saying nothing. Just staring him dead in his eyes and waiting to see why this dude was pulling me over."

"Oh Lord."

"Do you know what this man did? He comes over with this big ass flashlight and starts pointing it all into my car, flashing it all over the back seats and all that. And you know what the VERY FIRST thing was that this officer said to me?"

I gasped and put my hand on my chest. "What?"

"This man puts this light straight in my face and says, 'Do you have any firearms or weapons in this car with you?'"


"Yeah, man. So I look at him like he's stupid and say, 'What? NO!' And he immediately keeps flashing that damn light all over my car and asks me some other crazy question. And I'm like, 'Look, man. Why did you pull me over? Tell me why you pulled me over so that I can go home.'"

"You said it like that? Like all funky and mad like that?"

"The FIRST THING this officer asks me is if I have a damn firearm? And I'm supposed to kiss his ass?"

"You sound crazy. Like somebody who wants to be on CNN tomorrow and who wants Al Sharpton down here talking to a crowd about what happened to you."

"Anyway." He scowled and shook his head.

"So why was he pulling you over?"

"He said that one of the little lights on the side of my license plate was out. You know, those little lights that illuminate your plate? Yeah, that. It was total bullshit."

"Was it out?"

"If it was, it was barely noticeable. He just saw me in my truck and thought he would pull me over and find something. And I was just sitting there looking at him like he was stupid."

I dragged in a big breath of air and winced because I know my husband and I know exactly how he was glaring at that officer. Which terrified me.

"Then he asks me how much I've had to drink. And I was like, 'I haven't had anything to drink at all. What are you even talking about?'"

So I'm just staring at him incredulously and trying to stay calm. He continues.

"Yeah, so I'm just waiting and he keeps flashing this light all up in the car and finally is like, 'Where are you coming from?'" And I say back, 'WHAT?' And he says it again all bad ass. 'WHERE YOU COMING FROM?'"

"Oh Jesus."

"I was like, 'Why?' And he says some shit about it being late or whatever. And I told him, 'Where I'm coming from is none of your business. I'm a 44 year old man and I can go and come wherever I want. I guess you thought by pulling me over you would find something but you won't. I haven't been drinking and I've done nothing wrong. So man, run this license and do whatever you going to do so I can go home. It's late and I'm tired of sitting here.'"

I stood up. "You SAID that?"

"Damn right I did. He was just effing with me and I wasn't having it. Then he says some shit about how I need to calm down or whatever. And I'm like, 'No, you need to run this license so you can find nothing and let me go.' Then he says he could give me a citation and he's trying to avoid that or whatever. And I told him, 'Man, do what you need to do. Give me the citation, don't give it to me, whatever.' And he's like, 'Well, I'm trying to spare you a $100 ticket.' Like he was doing me some damn favor."

And the BHE was saying all of this like people getting beat down in slippery stories in the news wasn't happening. So I felt my blood boiling and my heart racing. "Harry!" That was all I could think to say. He went on.

"So I told him, 'If my light is out, I'll get another light and prove that I did and get this waived. So I can do that or get it changed without that. It's up to you. Either way, I'm ready to go and you don't have a reason to hold me here. So do what you plan to do so I can go. There's nothing else to find.'" And he stood there with his chest all poked out like I was supposed to be all nervous and I just sat there still staring him dead in his eyes like, 'And?'"

"What happened after that?"

"He let me go. And I left. That was some bullshit." 

I sighed again. I mean, because it was. And because he was right to be irritated and insulted by that entire exchange. But, as his wife, I need him around. Badly.

"You could have been killed, you know. Arrested, taken to jail, killed."

"I'm not sorry. He was foul."

"But you have a family."

"I am a man. A grown man. And yes, I'm a black man but still. You think if our next door neighbor got pulled over around here that somebody would make the FIRST question about whether he has FIREARMS? I wasn't speeding, I wasn't reckless, I was just DRIVING. You better be glad I didn't tell him to kiss my ass."

"You sound proud and crazy!" And I said that even though I 100% agreed with his position.

And so. We argued. About me demanding that he forgo his dignity to remain safe for his family. Which is really an awful thing to ask a man to do, isn't it?


Yes. I recognize that there have also been assaults and killings of officers by citizens. I know that they, too, are at great risk of harm in that line of work and in no way endorse such activity. I'm willing to agree that, just as we should stay on guard, they should, too. But within reason.

My upstanding citizen, grown man husband was pulled over, insulted and harassed. In his own neighborhood. Why? Well. As they say in legalese: Res ipsa loquitor. That is, "the thing speaks for itself."

Yes, it does.

I'm mad that I have to demand my husband coil into a passive blob of jello to potentially save his life when someone has done something pretty much equivalent with spitting into his face. And worse, that I will be forced to expect the same of my two sons if I want to keep them from being beaten or shot to death just for being who they are at the wrong time.

Harry was right. This was some bullshit.

The thing is this:

No matter what was happening at that moment or no matter what the impetus for that officer pulling my husband over, it bothers me that I can say with near certainty that it wouldn't have gone this way for any person regardless of phenotypic appearance. And again, as much as I'd like to argue that his race had nothing to do with any of this, in my heart of hearts I know otherwise.


So this. This is just one of the things that many people in this world will never, ever have to argue with their husbands about. Or their sons about. Nor will they ever even have to think about it. I mean, not as it applies to the immediate welfare of their husband, brother, children or grandchildren.


And so. If someone asks me what I think about all of this and how it affects my family? I'll simply say this:

Res ipsa loquitor. That is, the thing speaks for itself.

The thing being that this is some bullshit indeed.




  1. I don't even know what to say except that this is an argument no one wins because as you said- you are both correct.
    I'm sorry.

    1. Yeah. I felt this weird mixture of proud of him and furious with him. It was crazy.

  2. Oh Kim, you were both so right. And it is such a wrong situation. What would Harry have counseled your two sons to have done if it had been one of them? Because in all probability, unless the current situation greatly improves between now and when your sons start driving, it may well be one of them who is pulled over for no good reason.

    1. He'd counsel them to stay alive. It's weird how none of the stories seem applicable to us until it gets close like this. I hate that the happy medium means giving up dignity a lot of times.

  3. Oh my god. Just reading this account was terrifying--my heart was racing. It's so incredibly fucked up that it happened at all, and I am really feeling you about how bullshit this all is. Stay safe, you and all your family.

    1. Thank you, Ellie. And yes, this was f-ed up for real.

  4. Your right it is some BS. He deserves to be respected as the man he is but reality is reality and he took a big chance.

  5. Believe it or not this exact same thing happened to me about 5 years ago....and at that time I was a 56 year old white woman. I was coming home FROM THE POST OFFICE....I couldn't sleep and the post office was about 12 miles away so I thought....why not...go check my mail. It was about 4 in the morning. The cop pulled me over...said my light was out above my license plate! Shining his flashlight right in my eyes and all over the inside of my car. Treated me pretty much like how the BHE said. I told him the same is not against the law to be driving at 4 in the morning and I have done nothing wrong. I'm sure he was looking for drugs or drunk driving. I remember shaking in my boots and practically crying but I stood up for myself. I got home and checked my license plate light and it was fine! A good reason to have a mounted video recorder on you dash.....

    1. Whoa. I'm glad it worked out okay. I think the part that sharply separates the experiences, though is that first question: Do you have any firearms? That, in addition to asking all of those other questions, was downright insulting. And yes, I totally agree that flashing that light in your car was foul, too. But something tells me that if Harry had been pulled over at 4am instead of 1am it would have been even worse.

  6. So eloquently told. This breaks my heart. I worry about my students for the very same reason. I'm terrified something will happen to them because they are young black males. I pray for their safety in this crazy world, I will pray for your family too. This is a travesty.

  7. Btw...I've missed your writing lately. How is Poopdeck?

    1. Thanks, friend! Poopdeck is awesome. I really appreciate that you read here. More coming--lots in my head.

  8. Posts like these are why I pray an extra prayer for those of us married to Black/Brown men, and why I pray extra EXTRA for the mothers of Black boys/men.

  9. Kim, this frustrates me so much. Two weeks ago I had just dropped my daughter off in Peoples Town after we drove home from vacation in Florida. I was just about to pull onto 20 when one of Atlanta's finest pulled me over. By the time he got to my window, I had taken off my seat belt so I could reach my purse in the floor board and my insurance papers in the glove compartment. (I'm really short). The officer shown his flashlight briefly around my truck and asked me why I wasn't wearing a seat belt. He didn't question my explanation. He very politely told me that my tag lights were out. I apologised and said I'd get that fixed right away. He said have a good night, and left me to go home. He never asked me about weapons or why I was in the area. He didn't try to intimidate me or threaten me at all. Couldn't have been more polite. Harry deserves that same kind of respect. Maybe more so, because I do have a weapon. I also have a permit to carry it and I know how to use it. It saddens me that we still live in a world where all life isn't held as sacred, where respect isn't the expected and the norm, rather than the exception.

  10. This really breaks my heart. It actually scares me, because I'm 99% sure my husband would have reacted the same way as your husband.

  11. Stories like this, break my white woman heart, makes me scared for Harry, Zach, Isaiah and all the other black/brown boys and men in my life that I love. It isn't the one degree of separation fear that you live with and for that I am truly sorry as a member of the white race, but it is two and three and on and on degrees of separation of the many that I do love and have loved for years.

    1. Yeah Jill it's crazy. Sometimes it's easy to get so wrapped up in my little suburban life that I feel smacked on the side of the head by things like this. And that smack says, "Yeah, Miss Doctor, your family is still negro. Deal with it." I'm comforted knowing that we do have a lot of friends or every color of the rainbow who are equally as troubled.

  12. Dr. Kim, as I was reading this post, my heart was practically pounding out my damned chest. I knew Harry had to make it out okay, for you wouldn't be writing in just this way had things gone another way. As they so easily (blank)-ing could have. Still. My panic rose with every word I read.
    This year is my 26th teaching at Morehouse, and I have heard a version of this story hundreds--if not thousands--of times from our sons. We White folks just don't seem to get it, that this kind of daily dealing has been an epidemic forever. We don't seem to get it that we White people continue to create in every era new (and old) methods to try to keep Black people and all POC in little boxes that White people can control.
    Sorry. Didn't mean to get on a soap box, but I'm not taking it back, now.
    I don't read medical studies very much (I teach English), but the ones I've read concerning race and health seem to focus on things like poverty and lack of access to good medical care. Those things are so important. But I've also long wondered if the medical field is ignoring the sheer impact of having to deal 24/7 with being the recipient of racism. When I think of Harry--and the thousands of young, Black men with whom I've been privileged to share the classroom/my office/friendship/kinship--I can't help but see such an immensely powerful stress upon one's body and soul. And I don't mean stress like, "Oh, I'm SO stressed out..." I mean stress like the things that cause steel bridges to collapse.
    I will be asking my grandsons (students--they used to be my younger brothers, then my sons, now...) to read your piece so that we can talk about it in class.
    The need to preserve one's life vs. one's dignity as a human should never have to be a choice.

    1. So a couple of things: First, a lot of these perception things cross many race lines. The officer who pulled the BHE over was latino, according to Harry. Similar things are also described by my friends who've been stopped by cops who look just like them (black cops.) All of it is a hot mess. And it's super complicated considering there ARE some young brothers riding around at night who DO have firearms which messes it up for the ones who don't. Of course there are all sorts of people of every race doing bad things . . . but I totally agree with you that this country's history along with poverty, poor education and lack of generational wealth in underrepresented minority communities really poisons so many things and makes folks feel like they have nothing to lose. As Baldwin once said, "The most dangerous thing in any society is the man who has nothing to lose."

    2. True that--the perceptions leak into all minds. I still place the responsibility to change things on the shoulders of folks like me. Not that people of color should wait around, oh, hell no.
      I'm not a good one for details like statistics, but I do believe that there are just as many or more young, White men cruising around with firearms, drugs, etc. And it doesn't matter how many anecdotes we may hear about White people being treated "the same way" by a police officer stopping them; the evidence weighs absurdly in the direction of racial profiling that leads to violence against young Black and Latino men.
      I know I'm preaching to the choir. Forgive me.
      And I'm also sorry if my rant implied that I thought anything about the (perceived) race of the police officer. I didn't. I was speaking, I think, to the larger issue of the most central sources and ways that racism, profiling, fear, and hatred continue to burn with violent life in this country.
      Thanks for your voice and all you do, Dr. Kim.

  13. This is terrifying! And you know I understand how right you both were. Thank God Harry was ok because we all know anything could have happened and any story could have been told after the fact and any convenient evidence planted. This is for real.

    A couple week ago we lent our son the car to travel out of town with two friends, both young black men, one who wears his hair in dreadlocks, and after they left I was suddenly hyperventilating, thinking about the fact that the car is in my name, my professional name which is my maiden name, which is not my son's last name, and if some cop ran the plates they might think the very nice car carrying these three young black men was stolen and they might pull over my boy and his friends, and he'd have no way to prove that the car belonged to his mother and not some random woman, and then who knows how it would have spiraled from there. I was kicking myself for not putting the car in my married name, my son's name, and even though all was well, I couldn't help being just so angry that I even had to think like this.

    Harry is the man. And you are the woman. May your family be safe and protected always. Amen.

  14. I was going to say something but then I realized I really don't know what it is like to live as a black man or woman. It's like when I talk to my husband about living as a woman. He's a large man, he has no idea what it feels like to be scared because you're someplace alone.

    This sucks.

  15. As a person who has a bit of a problem with "authority," I think I'm with your husband. As a white mother who will probably never face that kind of bullshit, though, from the police with my sons, I can definitely sympathize with your position, too. The thing speaks for itself, for sure.

  16. This ish gets real old, real quick. When we first moved into our home my husband was pulled over every single night. He was coaching football at the time, so he'd get home around 10 or so. And every night he was pulled over. They'd ask for ID, check his insurance, and let him go. This went on for a few weeks. Finally? He told them to either give him a ticket, put him in jail, or leave him alone. Only not nearly as politely. I was scared for months afterward that he would have some sort of altercation with the police and end up, as you say, a CNN headline. Having to choose between dignity and life is not a choice that our husbands should have to deal with. And yet, here we are in the year 2015 dealing with the same b.s. that generations before us - and likely after us - had to endure. I'm just glad all is well with Harry.


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