Orlando Sentinel

I’m white, so getting pulled over by police is much easier for me

- Preston Patterson is a therapist at Center for the Healing Arts in Winter Park.

When I have been stopped by police in the past, I pulled over as soon as I could because I have that privilege as a white man.

I do not need an extra five minutes to gather the courage to face possible physical injury or death, because I am not likely to be hurt during a traffic stop unless I get blatantly aggressive. I’m more likely feeling shame about what I did, trying to figure out what I did, or being worried about getting in trouble or the upcoming cost and traffic school I have to do.

But I have never thought I am about to die or be physically hurt.

I recently read a story about a Black and Latino U.S. Army lieutenant who was pepper-sprayed while sitting in his car after driving for a mile before pulling over and telling the officer at the scene he was afraid to get out of the car. In the end, he did pull over and helplessly accepted his injury. I would guess he just accepted it like that because if he fought back he could have been shot and killed.

As a therapist who specialize­s in trauma, I can tell you this situation is the perfect kind to cause significan­t damage to this man’s mental health, especially because he was physically stuck between getting sprayed with mace and the threat of death or greater injury.

The situation lasted minutes, but he may have to deal with the psychologi­cal damage this caused until he finds a profession­al who can help heal this injury. It is possible the lieutenant could develop physical illnesses as well if the trauma goes unresolved for too long.

My heart breaks for this man and the countless other Black men who have been harmed in similar situations. Events like this one also cause vicarious trauma to others in the Black community. So much pain for so many people, and this is just how it has always been since before America was founded.

White people have the luxury of being individual­s. So if some white guy gets killed by police we have the luxury of distance from the situation and escape vicarious trauma in a way members of the Black community cannot.

We able to think the guy who got shot by the police was obviously doing something he shouldn’t, like running toward the police or shouting, being high on drugs or something else, reasoning, “He must have done something to instigate the police violence and I would never do such a thing.”

That is why, even though white people do get killed by the police, I can compartmen­talize their actions and I don’t have intrusive fears of dying when I get pulled over because my tag is expired. As long as I don’t act like that guy, which is easy for me, I’m safe.

What is hard for whites to understand is that whiteness is invisible in a way Blackness is not. For Black and brown people who do not have that luxury, they cannot separate what happens to others of their race from what can happen to themselves.

I would ask police to have compassion when a Black person needs some extra time to pull over.

What is hard for whites to understand is that whiteness is invisible in a way Blackness is not. For Black and brown people who do not have that luxury, they cannot separate what happens to others of their race from what can happen to themselves.

 ?? By Preston Patterson ??
By Preston Patterson

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