Like many people around the world, I am anxiously awaiting the verdict to the Derek Chauvin trial, which will be read at any moment. As I wait, I am reminded of an experience just a few weeks ago. I was relieved when I was able to schedule a Covid vaccination appointment. When the Uber driver arrived, I nodded to him and got in the car. Upon reflection, I realized how infrequently I have had a Black Uber driver.
As we approached the Lincoln Tunnel exit, the lights and sirens of a New Jersey State Trooper’s cruiser alerted us to pull onto the shoulder. My driver apologized and his expression was full of fear. We both shifted into auto-pilot: he placed his hands in plain sight on the steering wheel and I grabbed my phone and hit the “record” button. It was the only tool I had to make sure there was an accurate account of the events that were to follow. How many Black Americans’ lives have been lost within minutes of what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop?
The driver gave the officer the requested documentation. I didn’t hear the officer give a reason for why we were pulled over. I was scared — and angry. I was shaking and afraid that my obvious recording would provoke the officer, but I did it anyway. I recorded the officer returning to his cruiser, I recorded his partner, and I recorded him as he returned the driver’s documents. Eventually, the officer sent us on our way without saying a word.
The driver and I were both very shaken by the time we got back on the road. I realized that what I just experienced was symbolic of where we are as a nation. We are at a crossroads: either we continue to advance and evolve, like creating the vaccine that will save lives and help us return to our normal routines, or we continue to make the same mistakes. Will we uplift and uphold the value of Black lives? Or, will we fall back on our promise to ensure liberty and justice for all? These very tense moments before the verdict is read are the culmination of the past year of racial awakening, the calls for accountability, and the entire world watching. We are called to center humanity, to save ourselves, to prove Black lives matter, to reimagine, to push forward, and to change.
The verdict is now being read: Guilty on all counts. I feel better. I feel seen, I am high-fiving the screen. I am explaining to my son what has happened. I am tearful. Maybe now I won’t worry about everyone in the car the next time a Black Uber driver picks us up.
It’s taken 10 months, 21 days for George Floyd’s family to receive justice. And with accountability comes healing. Now, as a nation, we can tear down the silos that separate us, fix what’s broken, and rebuild.