Stop and frisk in the Shade?

Well. . . no. But it sure looked like it might have been.

Our family policy is that Andrew has to meet me face-to-face before he leaves for school in the morning, but most days, I am out walking when he leaves, so he pulls out of the driveway and drives over to wherever I am, and we chat for just a moment before he leaves. It’s usually about things like what in particular is going on that day, when he’ll be home, some word of encouragement, and a cheerful “I love you!”

Usually, it times out that I’m over by Walker’s massive paved driveway, or Altom Construction’s driveway, and he can just pull in, talk, turn around, and leave, but one day last week, I was smack in the middle of the bridge. The bridge is two-lane with fairly wide shoulders and concrete walls. I was heading west, and he was coming east, so he just pulled over onto the eastbound shoulder, and I stood on the westbound shoulder and we hollered back and forth, pausing whenever a car passed between us.

One of those cars happened to be a sheriff’s deputy, westbound. I waved as he passed us and didn’t really think too much of it, but then the deputy turned around in Altom’s. Uh-oh. He was headed back eastbound, slowly. In a split second, a lot of thoughts and images raced through my head.

~ There’s been an awful lot of horrific violence related to law enforcement in our nation in the past few months.

~ I’m a single (and in this area, need I add “white?”) woman walking alone on the shoulder of the highway.

~ An officer right here in Taney County was shot (but not killed) in the line of duty less than three weeks ago.

~ A young man in a nice car is stopped on the shoulder of the bridge and is exchanging words with the woman.

~ The young man is black.

~ Oh, boy.

As the officer slowed to a stop, I asked Andrew if he had his driver’s license, which of course he did. He reached for his wallet.

The officer stopped between us, right there in the eastbound lane, and asked what was going on. Andrew answered that he was talking with his mom. The officer looked at me, and I said, “He’s leaving for school, and I’m giving him some instructions about the day.”

“Oh,” replied the officer. “OK.” And he rolled up his window, slowly drove to the end of the bridge, turned around at Walker’s, and continued on his westbound way.

Andrew followed suit, and I was left alone again to walk and and think.

What does racial profiling look like and feel like when you’re not just watching some piece about it on the news; when it happens to a member of your own family? I’m quite sure it wasn’t intuitive to the deputy – and wouldn’t have been to anyone else who doesn’t know us personally – that Andrew and are related in any way, much less that I am his mom. A young black man stopped on a bridge to talk with a lone white woman at 7:05 A.M. probably does (and should) give pause. I’d much rather someone – law enforcement or otherwise – risk stopping to make sure everything is OK when it really is, than risk “passing by on the other side” when maybe it really isn’t.

Actually, I am pretty sure that the officer would have stopped no matter what color skin either of us was wearing, because even though I in my neon yellow vest am pretty much an early morning fixture on that particular stretch of shoulder, stopped cars are not. But I’m also guessing that Andrew’s race did play into it, and to me that is at once both awfully sad and totally logical. As the officer turned around to come back and check on us, I was instantly torn between “Should I be glad he cares enough to stop?” and “Should I be indignant that he’s suspecting a problem just because this young man is black?”

I’m still torn.

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1 Response to “Stop and frisk in the Shade?”


  1. 1 servantofthesecretfire October 2, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Wow. Thank you for sharing.
    “I’m also guessing that Andrew’s race did play into it, and to me that is at once both awfully sad and totally logical.” – Yes. Really brings home the complexity of the racial issues in our country right now. There is no easy answer.


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