I, Too, Have Been Pulled Over by the Police

In light of the recent events in Memphis, I want to share my own experience and why this has everything to do with systemic racism.
Contributed by Martin Ricard—February 13, 2023
I, Too, Have Been Pulled Over by the Police

I’m an educated Black man. I know how to talk to people. I know how to follow the law.

I also understand what it means to be pulled over by the police and, in an instant, see your whole life flash before your eyes.

In light of the recent events in Memphis involving yet another police officer-killing of an unarmed Black man, I want to share my experience to help people understand why this issue has everything to do with systemic racism.

For me and my wife’s wedding anniversary, we decided to take a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is one of the best vacation spots in California — and probably the world. The lake itself is special because of its sparkling blue color, sandy beaches and majestic mountains that encircle it.

Tahoe also has tons of recreational activities for everyone to enjoy such as swimming, fishing, boating, hiking trails and biking trails. There also are plenty of nearby ski resorts for those seeking winter sports adventures during that season.

Tahoe also is special to me because, every summer when I was growing up, my family would travel up there and spend a few weeks in Tahoe on vacation.

One thing to keep in mind about Tahoe is that it usually takes a while to drive up there. So by the time my wife and I got to town, it was past midnight, there weren’t many cars on the road, and we were both tired and hungry (this was during the first part of the pandemic).

But what happened next showed me that, no matter where you go in this country, there is always the potential for things to get tense between a police officer and a Black man.

Because of the pandemic, most of the good restaurants were closed.

So we drove around for a bit. When we didn’t find anything to our liking, I got discouraged and I decided to make a left turn, cross the double lines on the road and make a three-point turn. Then I changed my mind and decided to keep driving down the road.

In the moment, it didn’t seem like a big deal. It’s Tahoe!

Then the sirens went off.

As the officer stood in front of my window, I answered his questions. This also was shortly after the George Floyd protests, so I can admit that I had an attitude.

But I thought if I told the officer how my family had been coming to Tahoe for decades…if I told him I hadn’t been drinking…and if he saw the Cal logo on my license plate frame, that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t.

After a few minutes, the officer asked me to step out of my car. That’s when my anxiety went up.

The entire time, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “Is this happening because the officer really can’t tell whether I’ve had too much to drink? Or is this happening because I’m Black?”

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