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Merlin sitting in the Van

I have not told this story before. I worry how it will be received. I don’t know the right language to express it other than my own thoughts and feelings. This post is not for people of color because they already know it. This is for white people living in suburbs and small towns who think this is a big city problem and “It’s not my town.”

Before moving to New York City, I drove every where. I got pulled over 3 times in 15 years; two speeding tickets and an illegal left hand turn.

The first year I was back in Michigan, I got pulled over 5 times. Each time it was for impeding traffic and I did not get a ticket.

I drove a dark grey, 1998 Chevy Venture van that was in storage for several years. It was in good shape.

The traffic stops were unlike any I had experienced in the past. The first one was in Monroe County on Dixie Highway near Sterling State Park. I was coming home from the park with my dogs. The sun was setting and it was twilight. My Poodle, Merlin, sat in the passenger seat and Indy, a Jack Russel Terrier, was in the back. I was driving down Dixie Highway at 50 mph, which is the speed limit. Flashing lights popped up behind me. My heart raced. What did I do? I pulled over and tried to calm down; I didn’t want to look suspicious.

It was a Monroe County Sheriff. I thought one of my running lights was out. As the sheriff approached my van, he unfastened the top of the holster of his gun. I had not experienced this before. I wrote it off as the new standard procedure on all traffic stops. Or maybe this guy was a cowboy. I said as little as possible.

I waited for the, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” This officer asked where I was going. He looked in the window and flashed his light on Merlin and his demeanor changed. The stern look on his face disappeared, but he seemed…annoyed… I guess is the best word. I thought I was going to get a ticket for Merlin being in the front seat. He didn’t ask if I’d been drinking or had any weapons. He asked to see my license, looked at it under his flashlight and handed it back. Then he explained he pulled me over because I was going 3 miles under the speed limit and was impeding traffic. There were no other cars on the road. I said I was not aware of it. He told me to keep an eye on it and that he was giving me a warning. I thanked him. He walked back to his car.

I remember being confused about it, but since I didn’t get a ticket, I didn’t think to much about it. Impeding traffic, never heard of it before.

Same thing happened in Flat Rock and Huron Township. Impeding traffic, didn’t get a ticket. On the third stop, I asked one of the officers if impeding traffic was a new law in Michigan and he got a little snappy with me. The oddest one was the second time I got stopped in Huron Township.

Merlin was a tall dog who often sat in the passenger seat. When he was in the passenger seat or the back seat, he was tall enough to be mistaken for a person, especially at night. When the officer got to my window he asked, “Who’s in the back? I said, “No one. Just my dogs.” He asked me two more times. “Who’s in the back?” And I said, “It’s a dog.” He asked me to take the dog out of the vehicle.

The back of the van only opened on the passenger side, I got out, called Merlin to the front and took him out through the driver’s side door. The officer seemed annoyed as he said, “Is that a Poodle?” I said yes and put Merlin back in the van. The officer seemed mad as he explained the impeding traffic law, like I tricked him somehow and was wasting his time.

After that, I had the speedometer on the van checked to see if it was working correctly. It was.

The scariest one was the night I was driving home from my sister’s house at around 10 pm. I was going down Middlebelt Road, again in Huron Township. There was a Huron Township police car behind me since I turned onto Middlebelt. I kept checking my speedometer and I was doing the speed limit. After about a mile, he turned on his lights. I thought, “Again?” It is frustrating to be pulled over repeatedly by the police. Your heart races every time and you are scared. There is the thought, “What if it’s not the real cops?”

This time there were two Huron Township SUV police vehicles that pulled me over. One cop walked up on the passenger side of my van. I saw him in the sideview mirror unholstering his gun as he sidled up to the window where Merlin was sitting. Merlin rarely barked at people. His fingers relaxed when he saw Merlin.

I thought, “Holy crap! Maybe my van matches the description of a vehicle used in a crime.” This is a rural area, it’s about 10 pm and it is dark out. I’m a woman alone. Thank God I had Merlin with me.

I rolled down my window and was asked to roll down the passenger window. I did. I asked the officer, “Did I do something wrong?” because I was at a loss. He asked me if I’d been drinking and if I had any weapons. I said no. He took my license and examined it with his flashlight. He handed it back and asked where I was going. I was heading home and explained where that was and the route I was taking to get there. The whole time the other cop is still standing on the passenger side with his hand on his holstered gun.

The first officer explained I was driving erratically and going 5 miles under the speed limit and went through the impeding traffic law as if I was five years old. I didn’t get a ticket.

It was puzzling and irritating. I felt I was being punished for driving an old van. But what could I do?

One day, sitting at a restaurant having breakfast with my Dad; our old neighbor came in and said, “There’s a black man stealing your van. He’s behind the wheel right now.” I paused a minute and realized he was referring to Merlin. Bells went off.

I was furious. I wanted to go home and rage at every police department that pulled me over. I wasn’t impeding traffic, it’s not my van, it’s not my driving–they thought Merlin was a black man!

That’s why I kept getting pulled over. They thought it was a black man in an old van. I was so angry I wanted to drive to Dearborn at night with Merlin in the passenger seat and create a big stink when I got pulled over. “Call the news!” I’d shout! I wanted to rage at someone. But who? I couldn’t prove any of it. If only I’d realized it as it happened.

There were plenty of times black men pulled up next to me when Merlin was in the passenger seat and said, “Hey, a brother dog.” I should have known. John Steinbeck wrote in “Travels with Charley,” Charley was also a Poodle, that he had to be careful driving in the South. He got in trouble a few times because people thought Charlie was a black man. How could I be so stupid!

I stood behind my van with Merlin in the passenger seat and could see how he was mistaken for a black man. I wish I had a photograph.

This happened to me 5 times in the span of about a year. I cannot imagine having it happen several times a week my entire life. As a white woman, getting stopped by the police is scary; it makes my heart race and my stomach hurt. I’m sure a black person’s fear and rage is a hundred times greater.

Since Merlin died, I have not been pulled over once.

This happens daily to black Americans. It’s not right. The fear is real. The rage is real. Black lives matter.

How do we change it?

For more information on how you can be part of the change, check out this excellent post by Michelle Webber on her blog King of States titled, “Racial Justice, A List of Resources for White People Who Are Not on Twitter 24 Hours a Day”

I recommend the book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” By Matthew Desmond.

He recommends some very simple changes to stop the eviction cycle that keeps so many in poverty. The first is changing the law so everyone who goes to housing court is represented by a court appointed attorney. It will enforce the laws that already exist. This is what I’m working on to make a change.

Merlin in his usual doo.
Merlin is sitting in the driver’s seat.

Those interested in reading more about Merlin, read the post, “My Friend Merlin” on this blog.

440 thoughts on “A White Woman, Racism and a Poodle

  1. Police are SCARY says:

    It is terrifying to be pulled over by the police in my experience. They LOVE to ask ‘why are you nervous?’ as if being nervous during a police stop means you are hiding something. And if you even think about standing up for your rights (i.e. 4th amendment), they will become even more aggressive and unfair with you. If you consent to a search and they find nothing you can be sure they will be annoyed as if you’re wasting THEIR time. The police WANT confrontation. They are mostly (not all) bullies who simply enjoy exerting their ‘power’ over you to feel better about themselves. It really is shameful and I am so proud of our country at this moment. To see so many people standing up to the police finally is heartening.

    Like

  2. Chris Snyder says:

    I’ve been a MI resident driving in many of the same counties as you since 1996, and habitually drive 5 mph or even slower than the speed limit, but have never even heard about the “impeding traffic” law. I have never been pulled over unless I was speeding a lot, never for going too slow, even if I was doing the minimum speed limit on the freeway. But that is probably my white woman privilege at work. Thank you for your sharing your story, I do not doubt that it is true, and will probably continue to happen as long as you have Merlin sitting in one of your car seats instead of lying down in a crate in the back.

    Like

    1. Unfortunately, Merlin crossed the Rainbow Bridge 5 years ago. I have 2 Standard Poodles now and ride sitting in the seats. Charming’s not tall enough to be mistaken for a human, but Henry is. Still, not taking the chance. Not fun being pulled over by the police.

      Like

  3. carole489 says:

    So Sorry for your loss of Merlin. We lost our 13 year old blue standard poodle and after 18 months we adopted a one year old black male standard poodle, who is as sweet, gentle, and loving as they come. Thank you for sharing this story. Unfortunately, we live in a state where what happened to you and Merlin could very easily happen.

    Like

  4. Kathy Howard says:

    I got here from a link on FB. I will probably share it, too. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder about how things are not as they should be. Well written; it gets peoples’ attention before dropping the point of the story.

    Like

  5. Anonymous says:

    incredible story that depicts the problem so so well. I’m so happy you shared your story.

    Like

    1. spb says:

      Thank you for that story. Powerful.

      Like

  6. David R. Simons says:

    Local police officers and racial harassment

    Wouldn’t it be great if there was a…
    Police/sheriff deputy harassment app with…
    Microphone capable of sending roadside conversation to the driver’s cell phone
    Ability to trigger voice recording easily from driver’s seat

    Data collection
    Time
    Date
    GPS Location at time of recording
    Officers at GPS location at the time of the stop
    Driver name
    Driver’s state license #
    Vehicle license #
    Current Insurer and driver insurance account number

    Remote recording of above information in real time
    Remote data base where recording copy may be accessed

    All police/sheriff departments are required to participate in this program

    All bogus traffic stops are reviewed by independent federal government agency and submitted to local police departments whose officers are judged to be participating in driver harassment, racial or otherwise

    If there is a federally confirmed case of local police or sheriff dept. driver harassment, the offending officer or officers are barred henceforth from employment by any state or federal law enforcement agency.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. R. E. FIchter says:

      This is especially important to share about Michigan, one of the more obviously racist states north of the Mason-Dixon line, as are Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania for that matter. Systemic racism is hardly just a southern problem as I’ve observed all my life having lived in several of these states. I’m currently in the process of moving downriver to live closer to more of my children and their children. It presents a real problem to me because I am very uncomfortable living with mostly White people, and FYI, I’m White. I lived in Detroit for 28 years, still work and worship in Detroit, and currently live in a ‘burb that suits me because it more nearly reflects true America by being very diverse in race, ethnicity, and religion, a rare enough thing anywhere in the good old USA. Finding such places can be very hard in Michigan, and downriver is not exactly a hotbed of inclusiveness. Nothing about this story surprises me except maybe the ridiculous frequency with which you were pulled over and the blatantly silly excuse proffered.

      Like

      1. Thank you. There are some good people Downriver and I is changing. The hardest part about moving back her from NYC was being around so many white people. I miss mixing with many cultures on a daily bases. Will we change it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. E. Demko says:

    Thank you for writing this. I came via Daily Kos and I am going to repost your story on my FB page. I am not an influencer and don’t have many FB friends, but this story needs to be spread.

    Like

    1. Thank you for sharing. I wrote hoping to give white people in Detroit’s Downriver suburbs a way to talk about this. I’m not an influencer either. I am trying to change my corner of the world. Start the conversation with your FB friends.

      Like

  8. Thank you for such an insighful blog!!! It shows clearly how racist many police are, as well as what Black people, especially men, go through on a daily basis.

    Like

  9. I remember when we rescued a black German Shepherd. The rescue agency was so pleased because apparently black dogs are the last dogs to be chosen by those seeking to rescue dogs. Yes, indeed, there is even racism in pet selection. Thank you for your excellent and revealing post.

    Like

    1. I know people like to say that about dogs, but it’s a myth. There are simply more dark color than light color dogs.

      Like

      1. This was a very experienced rescue. It was her experience. You have no basis to refute her experience

        Like

      2. Yes, that’s where the myth comes from. Rescues do not keep records by color of dog. To a recuse worker it seems as if the black dogs are always the last to be adopted but don’t realized that there were more black dogs than any other color to start, so it would make sense they are usually the ones left. I’ll write a post about dogs and race eventually, I think you’ll be surprised where race plays a roll and it has nothing to do with the color of the dog.

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      3. You can’t believe everything on Wikipedia. The bottom line is, no one keeps records on dog color and and adoptions, so it can’t be proved.

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      4. I don’t believe everything in Wikipedia, but this wiki shows numerous studies of mixed results, so not proven, but not disproven.

        Like

      5. FYI dogs is one of the thing I like to write about, I’ve done a lot of research on this, as I said I’m planning to write an article about dogs and race because it is another example of systemic racism that a lot of people do not see and probably many won’t believe so I have to document carefully.

        Like

      6. Anonymous says:

        Oh, for pete’s sake you two. Really? What a gigantic waste of time and energy to argue about this.

        Like

      7. Stereotypes should be brought to light and busted in all forms.

        Like

  10. gretchenwing says:

    I would like to share your story on my blog, Wing’s World: https://gretchenkwing.com/ Permission?

    Like

    1. Share away. As long as it’s used to get people talking, I’m all for it.

      Like

  11. Carol Sheehan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am going to share this, because sadly, people get it better when a dog is involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I thought that would make it easier for people to talk about it. We have to have these conversations.

      Like

  12. senorjoel says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My sister sent me the article. I was actually a bit skeptical, as I have read a lot on the subject.
    This one is really well written, and very personal. It really does drive the point home.
    I hope you don’t mind that I’ve shared your story on Daily Kos: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/6/12/1952824/-A-WHITE-WOMAN-RACISM-AND-A-POODLE Several people have seen it there and come back to read your article. It’s really good.

    Like

    1. I don’t mind. Thank you!

      Like

      1. David Seager says:

        And Daily Kos is where I found this nicely written piece.

        Like

      2. Melissa Adams says:

        I too found it on daily Kos. I am from the very rural midwest so I have only even met 2 black people and one was adopted as a baby by a white family. However, my heart goes out to any and all human beings that are unfairly targeted by police. The reason I chose the previous wording is because I wanted to include the mentally ill. I literally can’t imagine fearing for my very life when just the loud demeaning “quit your damn bawling” from an older police officer scared me half to death!
        By the way, Merlin was a beautiful dog and I loved how you wrote your story

        Like

      3. Merlin was one of a kind. It’s funny, the current black Poodle I have I took in because he reminded me of Merlin, same stubborn streak, but he is nothing like Merlin. He’s a great dog as well, in his way Henry way, but very different.

        Like

  13. Todd says:

    It sounds like there are a lot of scared people out there on both sides. The woman in the story speaks of being scared. Then, the police officers are acting scared as they interact with this woman.

    Like

    1. Anonymous says:

      Except that the police have all the power in each of these situations. They had no reason to pull her over and no reason to be fearful. Driving while black is not a criminal offence, they made it one. Her fear, as a woman alone at night being pulled over by armed men for no discernible reason is an entirely justifiable response. Giving the police an out by allowing that they too were afraid is a way to excuse the obvious and inexcusable racial prejudice they exhibited.

      Like

    2. Anonymous says:

      The cops may have been scared but they didn’t have to interact with her or “the black man” they feared since there was no legitimate reason to pull her over. They must not have been too scared to falsely pull over what they thought was a black man.

      Like

    3. Sandra Carson-Price says:

      She is scared because they are approaching her with their hands on their guns. They are scared because they think she’s black.

      Like

    4. tim smith says:

      One fear founded on reality, one fear founded an unchecked imagined. A woman alone with 2 men, one with hands on an unholstered gun=fear founded on reality. The other fear is an imagination created by prejudice in the officer’s mind as he wrongly imagines a dog is a man and then also wrongly imagines a man a threat because of the man’s race. Bad situation, for sure.

      Like

    5. Anonymous says:

      DO NOT all lives matter this post. The author is very clearly NOT empathizing with the murderous police. This is very clearly written to highlight the violence police inflict on Black people every bloody day. It’s such bullshit that cops are scared. If they didn’t break the law to bully and harass strangers on dark roads for absolutely nothing they wouldn’t be in “danger”. The “danger” you speak of is no different than the concept of a boogie man. It’s self created and it’s called white supremacy. Beat it with your racist apologist garbage.

      Like

    6. Anonymous says:

      DO NOT all lives matter this post. The police are terrorists. They are only scared because they are breaking the law. If they stopped pulling people over who are doing nothing illegal, they would 100% of those time’s have nothing to worry about. With your lack of logic you would think that Black people are playing some kind of game, tricking police into pulling them over for absolutely nothing so that they increase their risks of being unlawfully arrest or even shot. #ACAB #TANGO

      Like

    7. Karina says:

      On both sides? No sir, you are gravely mistaken. Do not make this an All Lives Matter situation. Those cops weren’t scared, they were armed and ready to fill a quota. She said they were annoyed when they discovered Merlin was a dog and not a black man. #ACAB

      Like

    8. soliloquy72 says:

      An armed police officer is scared of an unarmed, sober, law-abiding woman and her poodle?

      Like

  14. Anonymous says:

    i was pulled over one evening when pulling out of a san francisco market when i used to have african braids..

    as soon as they saw my face, they apologized and let me go…

    i had turned on my headlights late while leaving parking lot and
    they even excused themselves for stopping me at all by saying that many people were driving drunk at thanksgiving ( it was thanksgiving)
    as if they owed me an apology,

    even though,
    technically, they really didnt need to apologize, it was all correct behavior.

    as an asian woman,
    i feel like Melanie Laurent, that french actress who explains that her french accent (and being a star ) helps her get out of situations

    but asian women also,
    nobody ever suspects us of anything

    once, my friend Rose , who is also Asian, we set off her car alarm in Oakland, and a police man on motorcycle drove by, glanced at us, and kept on driving…

    isnt that the point of a car alarm , to alert citizenry and the police ?

    Like

  15. heimdalco says:

    I enjoyed this post so very much. Thank you for sharing. I am now following your blog & look forward to future posts. Thank you for following mine.

    Like

      1. heimdalco says:

        If you have a moment, please read my most recent blog entry, Ruby (A timely repost). We seem to share a common feeling in our hearts.

        Like

  16. Mb says:

    I’m glad you told this story.
    I’m afraid of the cops too, because I’m almost always alone in my car.
    But I can understand that any black person is 10 million times more scared.
    Too many very bad apples, trained to bully and use intimidation.
    With arrest quotas and revenue generating and forfeiture laws it seems like law enforcement has abandoned the pretense of ” to serve and protect”. We call HWY Patrol ” the travelling toll booth”.
    Racism is pervasive and deadly.

    Like

  17. Bob says:

    I am from West Bloomfield. I got pulled over going into my neighborhood EVERY SINGLE night starting summer vacation. Didn’t matter once I graduated either. EVERY SINGLE night. I have a dark complexion (for a white guy) and curly brown hair. they stopped me.. same story. surprise, a warning. I never said anything, though one officer did tell me I had a bad attitude. Don’t tell me it doesn’t freaking happen. My sister driving SAME car… no problems.
    Got a traffic ticket on Orchard Lake, 1 over. Court. I walk in… half fine and no points. Black guy in front of me… full fine full points… same offense, same officer.
    Yep white privilege saves the day.
    No idea how to fix this, except lots of retraining.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Talking about it is a great first step. People like you and I have an insight that white people will listen to. Write your story and share it. Even if it’s just a Facebook post. I encourage everyone with a story to do that. Stop being afraid to write it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jan Dickinson says:

        Here’s mine —

        It’s also been posted to my FB.

        I am a white woman. A couple of cars ago I had a Toyota with windows that had obvious after-market tinting on the windows. The only time I ever had a problem was one winter day when I decided to wear one of those super fuzzy hats with the fuzzy balls on the end of the ties. That day I was pulled over by a rather surprised looking officer in one of our NW suburbs. You will not be able to convince me that tint isn’t used as a pretext!

        P.S. I never wore that hat again. Do you see? I could take off my “identifying” characteristic.

        Like

  18. JeanMarie says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m horrified, angry, tearful, embarrassed to be white. #blacklivesmatter

    Like

    1. T says:

      Now stop that nonsense! You have done nothing wrong! You absolutely CANNOT do that to yourself. Keep doing good and being a good person to everyone. Be proud of who you are. What happened hundreds of years ago has nothing to do with you. What other stupid people do has nothing to do with you. You know in your heart you are a good person. Keep moving forward doing good things. The color of your skin, anybody’s skin DOESN’T MATTER. 🥰

      Like

      1. Kate says:

        Ummm … no. We’re all complicit. And if we don’t educate ourselves, acknowledge all the discriminatory behavior as it comes to light for all of us, and then work to change the system we are supporting the systemic racism that helped build America. As a white woman who has benefited from white privilege all her life, I feel the same way JeanMarie does. And, btw, what Cynthia Franks wrote about in this blog post didn’t happen “hundreds of years ago.” It happened in recent years, and CONTINUES TO HAPPEN all over the U.S. I wish we could say the color of people’s skin didn’t matter, but that’s not the reality for people who are anything except Caucasian.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. KLS says:

        It has to do with all of us. Systemic racism involves us all. Saying the color of people’s skin doesn’t matter invalidates and silences they experiences of people of color. Saying ‘I’m a good person’ and brushing this very big problem under the rug is lazy and something only a privileged white person has the luxury to do. We all need to educate ourselves and do some hard work to make this world a safer place for all Americans, and to not be horrified and embarrassed to be white. JeanMarie shows such awareness and empathy by feeling that way.

        I recommend you read ‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla Saad, many libraries have made the digital book always available and in unlimited numbers to borrow.

        Like

      3. Yohannon says:

        BZZT! Nope, stop it.

        Skin color DOES matter in this country. Trying to pretend it doesn’t makes the problem all the worse. Examine your privilege, or STFU.

        #BlueCrimesMatter

        Like

  19. Suzanne M Williamson says:

    i understand why the racist police thought that Merlin resembled a ‘black man’ but i dont understand why anyone else would. that in and of itself, is an extremely racist comment (to me, but i am white).

    Merlin looks like a dog. Just a dog. Handsome dog! Yes!

    But he does NOT look like a black man.

    sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not sure I understand your comment.

      Like

    2. Jay says:

      In the dark, from behind or the side, Merlin’s glorious crown of poodle hair looks very similar to the hair of a black person. At night, especially in places that are more rural with lack of street lights and shop lights, a dog the size of a poodle will take on the shape of a person.

      We’re not talking about the cops saw this dog in broad daylight and decided to pull her over, the cops multiple times saw them driving at night and pulled them over for the reasons described.

      Clearly Merlin looks like a poodle in daylight.

      Clearly he looks like a dark or Black man at night when there is no other light.

      The point of this retelling is that police officers are part of a systemically racist system, and look for excuses to pull black people over so they can create crime where there was no crime. Also, the fact that they are all un holstering their GUNS walking up to a vehicle that was going the speed limit because they thought a black person was inside should help.

      Like

      1. June says:

        Thank for accurately describing the fear that all black people feel at the site of the police.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. David says:

      When I was a teen around 17 yrs old a friend and I were cruising look for girls in Washington DC. We found ourselves behind a Redhead and riding in the passenger seat was a girl with long blond hair. We were hopeful of catching a red light so we could pull us and talk to them and it was a couple of miles before that happened we got to arguing about who would get to talk to the blond……anyway long story but when we got to the light the light we realized that the redhead was an old lady and the Blond was an Irish Wolfhound……… we laughed our butts off al” the way home… this was also at night But washington DC is well lit ……..

      Like

    4. Anonymous says:

      That’s a nice place you live in.

      Like

    5. kitrina stratton says:

      I had a golden retriever that sat in the front seat and even held onto the the hand rails in front (jeep) and people thought he was a person (white person) until they looked closer. I totally get this.

      Like

  20. Jane Fritz says:

    Oh my goodness, Cynthia, thank you for sharing these experiences and for sharing them as such an effective storyteller. The reblog button didn’t work for me so I have shared this post on my blog through the WordPress Reader option. Every white person needs to read this.

    Like

    1. Yeah, not sure what’s going on with WordPress, but since they changed to the block editor a lot things aren’t working correctly. The comments weren’t nesting.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. MKH says:

    Huron Township is notorious for pulling people over for no other reason than increasing their revenue. I received a ticket for impeding traffic on Huron River right on the boarder between FR and Huron Township. The speed limit changes right at the railroad tracks from 35 to 50. I was about 20 yards away from the increased limit when I got pulled over. I truly believe the cop had nothing better to do than harass me. I was the only car on the road at the time. I should have known better; the HT cops sit there all the time.

    Like

    1. Trish says:

      If you’re not Black shut up. This article is specifically about racial profiling and an insight (still only an insight) into the lived, violently terrorized experience we inflict upon Black people and the publicly funded henchmen who do our dirty work.

      Like

  22. Jay Nightwood says:

    Obviously, you never read John Steinbeck’s book “Travels With Charley”, published in 1960. Steinbeck was repeatedly pulled over for having Charley, a standard poodle, in the from seat.

    Like

    1. editann says:

      What color was Charlie?

      Like

    2. Steinbeck says he was blue or bleu. He is a brown color in the only color photo I’ve seen of him. I’ll post the photo on my FranklyWrite Facebook page.

      Also, Travels with Charley was published in 1962, Steinbeck made the journey in 1960. The title is Travels with Chaley: In Search of America.

      Steinbeck in one of my favorite writers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. editann says:

        Blue-black, maybe?

        Like

      2. Angela says:

        From what I’ve seen blue is usually just a faded looking black.

        Like

      3. Charley came from a breeder in France, they my have different classification. He is definitely a rich brown color. All Poodles fade over time.

        Like

    3. Carrie says:

      Obviously, you didn’t read the entire post.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Anonymous says:

      Obviously you didn’t read the full article. That book is referenced

      Like

  23. Chip Canty says:

    I grew up white in Northern Virginia, near Dulles Airport. I knew the racism I had left behind; that’s one of the reasons I left. But over the next 30 years, a lot of things changed. The police, not so much.

    I came home to visit my parents with my then-girlfriend, who is Black. Her daughter and son-in-law drove up to join us. We spent the day at the Air and Space Museum, then dinner. Driving back together that night, the main roads — the old ones — mostly looked familiar, but there were so many more now. I missed a turn, but knew That by taking the next left I could find my way back to my original route. I drove on, slowly, watching for my chance, but time and again what I thought was a road turned out to be yet another entrance to yet another new strip mall.

    Then the blue light started flashing. I had seen the cop, parked in the shadows along the side of the road, but thought nothing of it as I drove by. Suddenly it hit me: from the passenger side he could see only black people, and driving up behind me, the same. I was being stopped not for Driving While Black, but for Driving With Black.

    There was no hiding his surprise register when I rolled down the window and he saw my complexion. If there was any doubt, the big “W” on my license dispelled it. He didn’t apologize, just went through the motions and gave me a warning for “weaving” (I wasn’t) and crossing the center line (I didn’t).

    White privilege.

    It shook us up, but a few years later I got the last laugh. Exploring a genealogical mystery, I discovered that my grandfather was one of the many thousands of Black men who escaped Jim Crow by moving north and passing as white. Which means that I, at least technically, am African-American as well. Joke’s on you, officer.

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

      1. Anonymous says:

        Thank you for sharing your own personal story. Glad you and Merlin were safe while being pulled over numerous times. I too get followed by police officers because of the car I drive…

        Like

  24. J. Laginess says:

    Thank you for this tremendous post. It is an extraordinary example of why we so many of us are angry right now and saying ENOUGH!!!
    I live in Michigan too.

    You offer an incredible, detailed, and ‘no mistaking it for what it is’ example I can share with other whites.

    [Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians have no need to retell this story: regretfully, hundreds of thousands of examples (millions?) already exist and continue to be experienced.]

    Thank you too for the links to be able to learn about what I can do as “someone who has grown up completely without fear, lack of resources, or judgement in any part of my life due to the color of my skin.” That is white privilege.

    I pray that this movement of “I CAN’T BREATHE” will continue until the word “racism” loses all meaning: that the color of our skin truly becomes irrelevant to WHO WE ARE in our (so small and interconnected) world.

    Hope can be found … in the eyes, hearts and minds of the 5th graders I teach! Our younger counterparts are blessedly “way ahead” in the learning curve of how to eradicate the insidious existence and effects of racism on a people, a nation, and a world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Very inspiring. Michelle Webber gets credit for the links.

      Like

    2. editann says:

      People of color, I believe, don’t necessarily want their color “to be irrelevant to who they are.” There is heritage and culture and family connected to their color that is important and relevant and should be respected. They do want their color to be irrelevant to how they are treated by white people.

      Like

    3. Johnny left says:

      Good story

      Like

  25. Carol Dugan says:

    This is so enlightening. I wish all ‘white privilege’ people would read it. So glad someone posted it on my FB page. I seldom read it, or read it all the way but I’m glad I did it. I have family from Dearborn, but Dearborn isn’t really the main point of this story, is it?

    Like

    1. No, Dearborn isn’t, but the belief that Dearborn is “past” racism is the point. It’s a nice town, everyone should be able to enjoy it freely.

      Like

  26. Rol says:

    Wow. This says a *dog* effectively has privilege relative to a black man. How has it come to this?

    Like

    1. Rory R says:

      It has been like this since men and women of color gained their “freedom”.

      Like

    2. Stephanie Gould says:

      It has always been this way, but if you are white,was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood, or rarely come in contact with people of color, you wouldn’t know about it. You would have to actually witness it happening.

      Like

  27. Anonymous says:

    How frustrating, scary & sad. If this keeps happening especially at night pull over where there is light or call the police & tell them that a cop is trying to pull you over but you are not resisting you just want to be safe. Just in case it’s a fake cop. Being a female getting pulled over at night alone even if you have your dogs. This can also show it can be harassment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since Merlin died and my two current Poodles don’t ride sitting in the seat, I’ve not been pulled over in 5 years.

      Like

  28. paula m says:

    Please take this to the media.

    Like

  29. Diego Romani says:

    (1). I’m mystified by the whole concept of the pretext of impeding traffic by driving at 3 mph below the speed limit — as if that were actually dangerous — it seems like an excuse to increase revenue. Is this an issue in every state?
    (2) Is recruitment of police officers as prejudiced against persons of color as the actions of many seem to be? If so then the problem starts at the top. But where does one start to fix this? State level? Federal? No idea, but perhaps it would be best to stop electing either democrats or republicans. They seem to be as bad as each other, in their own way.
    (3) Why can we not lift each other up rather than tear each other down? Kindness doesn’t cost a whole lot.

    Like

    1. Start with the town where you live. That’s what I’m doing.

      Like

    2. Teagan says:

      It’s not recruitment, its training. That’s why it is systematic. Cops are literally taught to look for “suspicious activity” which includes people of different races driving together. They are taught that they are dogs protecting the sheep (citizens) from wolves (criminals, who somehow are painted as literally a different species than “good people”)

      Like

    3. Stephanie Gould says:

      It has always been this way, but if you are white,was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood, or rarely come in contact with people of color, you wouldn’t know about it. You would have to actually witness it happening.

      Like

      1. And that’s why I decided to tell this story.

        Like

  30. I can’t push the ‘like’ button because there’s so little to like about this. I’m embarrassed to be from Michigan. But thank you for the resources.

    Like

  31. Dianne Bersea says:

    Thank you so much for sharing and writing about it is such a readable and emotionally engaging way. MY heart was pounding along with yours.

    Like

  32. Mary Dolan says:

    Hi Cynthia Franks.
    Thank you so much for sharing this experience. Quite symbolic. And Merlin was quite the handsome guy!

    Like

    1. Thank you. I still miss him.

      Like

    2. Monique says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I was raised not seeing color but souls. I wish everyone was raised like I was.

      Like

      1. Most white people living in the suburbs and small towns were raised that way. “We are all equal. Don’t talk about it.” There are people of color, if you pretend not to see them, you can easily shunt them aside. This is the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. See them. LISTEN to them!

        Like

  33. Anonymous says:

    wow that sucks racism is a shitty thing 😦

    Like

  34. Michelle Brady says:

    This is ridiculous. There are people that are real victims of racism/brutality, but you are trying to make this about you. Try telling this story to a black person, see if they sympathize.

    Like

    1. Nice Privilege, Karen says:

      Whoosh goes the point of the story right over your head. Think about it really hard, cupcake, and maybe you’ll get the point.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Wow, how did you miss the point so completely? Do yourself a favor and slowly re-read the post. Then come back here and apologize to the nice lady.

      Like

      1. No apology needed. I’m happy she read it. Sometimes it takes awhile to sink in.

        Like

    3. Karen S ullivan says:

      The point of the story is that the cops thought a black man was in the car, so they pulled the vehicle over, and drew their guns because of it. They had no probable cause, other than being black. In this country, a black person safely driving a car, (or walking in a neighborhood, or in a park) can be treated this way, just because they are black. It’s not about the woman, it’s about the woman realizing in a first hand experience what happens to our black neighbors every damn day….

      Like

      1. Thank you , Karen, or putting it so clearly and simply. It’s possible she read the story in the Daily Mail which reported it as a news story. It is not. They missed the real story which is this happens every single day to Black Americans, and yet a white woman writes a story about it happening to her Poodle and boom! The world notices.

        Like

    4. It is ridiculous. This happens to Black Americans daily. I’m sure there are millions of stories of Black Americans getting pulled over for the slimmest reason. And yet, a white woman writes a story about getting stopped because her Poodle is mistaken for a black man and boom! the world notices. I’m using my white privilege to throw a light on it. A week ago I would not have used the phrase, “white privilege.” I’m learning.

      Like

    5. Ostfam says:

      I am Black and I appreciate her story very much. I read this and said “at least someone gets it”. Direct your anger elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Anonymous says:

      Did you really misunderstand the point of the story? Wasn’t it obvious that she is definitely *not* concerned about being a victim of racism, but just because she had a black dog in the care, she began to get a sense of what it must be like to actually *be* black and get pulled over for absolutely no reason other than being black. Most of the time white people have no idea how rough it is for black people, but this opened her eyes to the unfairness, and she was appalled at the injustice of it — even though it was was not directed at her.Some people actually aren’t only concerned with what happens to themselves, but when they see someone else being treated unfairly, they actually care about what’s happening to the *other* person.

      Like

    7. George Donin says:

      Michelle Brady… I think you misunderstood the point of the story.

      She is definitely *not* concerned about being a victim of racism herself.

      But just because she had a black dog in the car, she began to get a sense of what it must be like to actually *be* black and get pulled over for no real reason other than just being black.

      Most of the time white people have no idea how rough it is for black people, but this opened her eyes to the unfairness of it all, and how humiliating it must be, and she was appalled at the injustice of it — even though it was was not directed at her.

      Some people actually are concerned about what’s happening to other people besides themselves. When they see someone *else* being treated unfairly, they actually care about it and want to do take constructive action to improve the situation.

      Like

    8. D. Wells says:

      We all read things differently. Michelle, I read this as a story about police bias and nothing more. You are correct that there are real victims of racism/brutality but that’s not the subject of this story. This is about police profiling black people and stopping them for no or little cause. Did I miss something?

      Like

      1. It’s where the problem starts.

        Like

  35. Matthew D Healy says:

    A few years ago when I was taking a walk near where I then lived, in a prosperous residential area in Connecticut, a car with several well-dressed Black people pulled over and asked me for directions to the Merritt Parkway (one of the main highways in CT). I told them how to get to the Merritt Parkway, they thanked me, and they went on their way.

    But the FIRST thing they said when they rolled down their windows was that they were going home after a Church event.

    Only after they left did I realize WHY they had mentioned the Church event before asking for directions: they probably wanted to seem as non-threatening as possible to me, a middle-aged White guy. Then I was sad: as a White guy, I don’t have to worry about somebody calling the police if I get lost in their neighborhood!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Katrina says:

    I just read this post to my two children, ages 12 & 10. Your words were able to help me to educate my children about racism and what white privileged is.

    Like

    1. Thank you! This made me feel good. It is the goal.

      Like

  37. Stunning … But I guess it shouldn’t be. I’m white, as are my daughters and my wife. My daughters have had the privilege of growing up in a socially, financially, and racially diverse school district with a very mixed group of friends … race, gender, sexual preference, financial abilities. There is a hallway at their high school that is “owned” by the black community. Another is owned by the Hispanic community. Their biases are obvious and real, and the tension can be cut with a knife. Still, we consider our daughters to be very lucky to have such a broad and realistic view of society to carry into adulthood. My wife and I have tried our best to allow them the freedom of establishing their own views without injecting too much of our own, and we’ve all learned through their experiences. “Your father was the first white man to treat me like anyone else”, one of my daughter’s ex-boyfriends told her. Once, while driving my daughter and her friends somewhere (they were not yet old enough to drive themselves), my carload of girls were jabbering on about their upcoming Prom invitations … I just listened … “I don’t know why her dad won’t let her go out with him! He’s such a nice guy!”, said one white girl in the mixed carload. I knew … he was black. That gave me hope that, finally, their generation is going be the one that can no longer see color.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. editann says:

      There’s nothing wrong with “seeing” color. Everyone does, just like we see height, gender, hair color, etc. The issue is what you think and do after you see color.

      Like

      1. I look forward to your further posts about dogs and racism. I’m a dog lover and a civil rights attorney. I haven’t blogged about my dogs, but I have blogged and dedicated my life and work to fighting discrimination.

        Like

      2. Send me an email through my contact form.

        Like

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