Driving While Black: To Adapt or Not To Adapt

Question: If you know that facing prejudice is a part of YOUR life, do you protest or adapt to it for peace of mind?

The facts are that many of us WILL experience racism, prejudice, and profiling based on race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, perhaps drawing in more wonderment when the victim is a celebrity. We all know that Oprah (super famous media mogul entrepreneur self-made billionaire household name on everybody’s television sets Oprah) still has a hard time walking into a high-end (shall remain nameless) boutique to make a purchase without being told that an item that catches her eye is “too expensive”. So if Oprah, disgusted with this treatment decides never again to shop at high-end boutiques and now peruses the sales racks at the more thrifty JC Penney, would she be immune to racism?

Situation: Last week, two African American men set off a social media frenzy – one on Instagram and the other, well, everywhere else. While both postings appertained to the issue of racial profiling and bias towards blacks, they each garnered two very different responses.

Funny man, Chris Rock posted a selfie to Instagram, during a pullover by police and was met with a barrage of positive and supportive comments, and negative critiques where police were concerned. It appeared that he was another victim of DWB, driving while black. Driving while black is a term used for the systemic, usually baseless, racial profiling by police officers towards black men in particularly. He seemingly violated no traffic laws. Interestingly, Rock had been a victim of DWB before – a record 3 stops in the past 2 months.

Rock captions: Stopped by the cops again whish me luck
Stopped by the cops again wish me luck.

But then, (cue the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th) dun dun dun dun, Actor Isaiah Washington tweeted THIS in response to Rock being pulled over and let’s just say, the internet ALMOST BROKE.


Twitter went mad. Washington was hit back with tweets riddled with sarcasm and bewilderment. Rock did not respond, but popular musician Questlove and journalist Elon James White drilled home the point that it was illogical to think that driving a less expensive vehicle could immunize you from DWB. So Mr. Washington, naturally, feeling misunderstood was allowed to interview with CNN’s Don Lemon to “clear up” his statement. He defends his tweet, explaining that his vehicular downgrade has helped thwart subjection to pullovers. He does though, bring up a more interesting point – the idea that African Americans are at “WAR”. War? Yes, war! And that “there is a sentiment in the air that is highly toxic [and]…..negative.”

Hmmmm………. I now understood his suggestion to #adapt, although I strongly dislike his word choice. The word adapt, not only speaks to conforming to a certain culture or behavior, but also what one is willing to accept from others. Certainly, one can expect a resounding “hell no” from the African American community. Washington did not go into depth on this idea of “war” the way I had hoped, but I did understand where he was coming from. Perhaps, as a “soldier” fighting a war, you do everything in your power to survive. This may mean having to make sacrifices that put your happiness and other trivial pursuits on hold. But why should one be compelled to do this? Would it be for less PIECE of mind and just more PEACE? I suppose Mr. Washington thinks so.



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