Can’t Say Nothin’?

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. – Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)

I write this after an evening of waiting for my daughter to be released from the precinct where she was taken after being stopped for a busted headlight. She had just gotten off work and was just down the street from my house where her children and a traditional Día de Los Reyes dinner were waiting. It should have just been a simple ticket. But because the police don’t like it when Black folx ask questions or demand a badge number—they took her to the station.

She was let go a short time later, but not before her car was impounded. She had to come up with $190 to get it out. If she didn’t come up with the money immediately, the fees would add up. Two weeks away from payday, she faced the real possibility of losing her car, which would have meant not getting to work.

While they could not hold her on a minor traffic violation, the police found a way to make her pay for attempting to have agency and use her voice.

I confess that after leaving the station, I fussed at her for arguing with the police. I wasn’t taking their side—I just reminded her that it could have been so much worse. I did not have answers in that moment. Just fear and relief all knotted together in the place where my womb rests.

My smart, strong-willed adult-child reminded me that being innocent or polite doesn’t always make a difference in traffic stops.

She is right, and I am praising God my daughter is alive today and continues to be a light in the world.

God, I do not believe you require us to remain silent in the face of injustice. As we do the work of ending police violence, please require those called to “protect and serve” to stop the racial profiling and abuse of power.

Marilyn Pagán-BanksAbout the Author
Marilyn Pagán-Banks serves as Pastor of San Lucas UCC, Executive Director of A Just Harvest and Adjunct Professor at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.