In the 1960s, I marched in the Civil Rights Movement as a college student and we learned non-violence as an approach to social change.
Now I was not a student of non-violence to be honest with you. I was more a student of Carmichael and Malcolm X. But I did grow to appreciate the effectiveness of non- violence.
When I got to Austin I found a very interesting city. First of all, I really liked the city. I think that it’s an excellent place to raise children. But I also found that there was a recalcitrant, cerebral, racist perspective — racism that is very sophisticated in this city. Part of that has shown itself over the years in the way the police interact with our community.
Now I’ve lived in East Austin, a predominantly African-American area and it’s now becoming more gentrified. But I find that in dealing with the police, they have become more and more sensitive, almost hypersensitive, to the point that you are automatically a suspect if you happen to fit a certain profile.
Given my background and the fact that I’ve been involved in the movement for years across the country and in West Africa, you would think that I’m not surprised by virtually anything.
But the reality is that’s not always true. For instance, I went to a hospital to visit one of my young members and then I’m leaving and I’m thinking about this. As I’m driving, I notice behind me there’s a police cruiser.
The lights flash and they pull me over. It was one young woman — a Caucasian woman I believe — and she said to me with the flashing light in my face, “Sir do you know why you’re pulled over?” I say, “No officer, I do not.” She says, “The light over your license plate is out and that’s a violation.”
So she came back to my window and put the light again inside my truck and said, “Sir do you have a weapon in this vehicle that I should be concerned about?” I said, “No ma’am, I do not. I carry a weapon in my knapsack but I do not have anything that’s open or available. “
By that time she’s already called for backup. Now two or three others come up and they invade my vehicle with their lights in my face and in the cab. She comes back and almost apologetically puts my license back in my hand. So I drive off.
Now don’t get me wrong, I knew that the reason I was being stopped was protectional. I have no light over my license plate. In my vehicle, the lights are on the side and both of them work.
So to be honest with you, as I was being stopped, I thought to myself: If I give them my permit for my firearm, I’m going to get killed. If I don’t give it to them and they go in and search my vehicle, I’m going to get killed. And I begin to think, is this the night I’m going to die? Has it all come down to my dying on the street by some youngster who’s trigger-happy because of all the tension in the air, or would there be some other outcome?
Fortunately, there was some other outcome.
But I need to tell you that for a minute there, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
When those other guys showed up they looked like they were unsnapped. If you unsnap your holster, then your next thing is to pull out your weapon. I’m doing nothing. My hands were on my dashboard, I’m answering the questions, I’m being very calm, I’m not raising my voice.
When you’re driving and you’re black there’s a protocol you must follow if you’re going to stay alive and even then we get killed. I just wondered if that was my night and if I would ever see my kids again, if I’d ever see my grandkids, and if I’d ever see my wife again.
This just breaks me up. Nobody should have to go through this.