Tryin' to Catch Me Ridin' Dirty
Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" - that they might accuse Him.
– Matthew: 12:9-11
Turn on my blinker light
And then I swang it slow
I put up a show
Cause they think they know
That they catching me with plenty of the drank and dro
So they get behind me to try to check my tags
Look in my rear view and they smilin'
Thinkin' they'll catch me in the wrong, and keep tryin'
[Bleep] steady denyin' that it's racial profilin'
The see me rollin'
They hatin', patrollin' and tryna catch me ridin' dirty
(tryna catch me ridin' dirty)
My music's so loud
They hopin' that they gon' catch me ridin' dirty
- Chamillionaire, “Ridin”
Like many black men I tend to get paranoid around police. I will be perfectly honest here. I hate seeing the blue and white cars when I'm out driving. The only thing that gives me relief about cops is when they are driving past me to catch the "bad guys."
My anxiety towards the "law" started when I was in my last year as an undergrad and was pulled over for an expired tag. Next thing I know I have two cops (we used to call them "po-po" back then) with their guns drawn, ordering me to get out of the car. At which point I'm thinking "What the [bleep] is this about?!!!!"
They told me to put up my hands and spread my legs, because I was wanted for cocaine trafficking (and yes, this is a true story). Here I am a college student, a member of the "talented tenth" in a J. Crew turtleneck sweater and khakis being accused of dealing illegal drugs. I was fuming, but smart enough not to make the situation worst by openly expressing my anger.
They put the cuffs on with my hands behind my back and then put me into the rear of the police car. I very calmly told the officers that there had to be a case of mistaken identity and if I was taken to jail I would have no choice but to sue their department and the entire university. Because of my very cool, collected and reasonable approach, they figured they had better double check their files.
Turns out that when they ran my driver's license number it pulled up a list of names and they read the wrong line. They had the wrong Garvin and the wrong gender on top of that. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. Later I met with the campus police chief and he made a formal apology. I thought about suing. I thought about starting an anti-harassment and racial profiling rally, but I knew that it would be difficult to prove that the police officers had engaged in misconduct or negligence.
Last Thanksgiving I was driving to VA on I-85 North to see my parents. I saw a police officer in my rear view mirror. I looked at my speedometer to see how fast I was going. I was under the speed limit, so I was fairly confident that I was okay. The police car pulls up beside me and instead of passing; it slows down to the same speed that I'm driving! A police officer and a fire fighter sitting shotgun are staring at me. Naturally, I decelerated because I was completely taken aback by this strange behavior by the officer and his passenger.
A few moments later the police car drops back and follows me for a few minutes. I'm concerned, but I have not violated any laws, so I try not to become too anxious and give the policeman a reason to stop me. Just then, I hear the "woop-woop" and see the flashing blue lights. The officer and the fireman come over to the passenger side of my car after I pull over. The officer asks if I have been drinking. I literally laughed in his face, involuntarily, because of the ridiculous nature of the question (That response could have gotten me killed or beaten just 45-50 years earlier). He said my driving seemed suspicious, because apparently when people are intoxicated they either speed up or slow down. How do you argue with that logic and I didn’t try. I thought to myself, “I slowed down because you and your friend here were driving next to me and staring like you were hunting for nigras!" They were trying to catch me riding dirty, but they came up short.I realize that most police officers are decent people who genuinely want to make our communities safer. However, I become very uncomfortable when I see police cars every five minutes when I'm driving through town. I start to wonder if we are in the United Police States of America. As a member of a group that has been historically and unjustly targeted by officers of the law that is not an appealing prospect.
When the Pharisees would ask Jesus about whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath or whether or not a faithful Jew should pay taxes to Caesar, they were trying to catch him thinking and teaching "dirty" ideas. The Pharisees were like the Thought Police from Orwell's 1984. Their goal was to entrap Jesus on charges of blasphemy and treason, which were the allegations that ultimately lead to his crucifixion.
In a time of perpetual war, which is the War on Terror, dissent with the government can be considered unpatriotic, especially in regards to matters of national security. One often has to choose their words very carefully less they be accused of abetting terrorists. If Jesus were alive today, he would not be a very popular guy if he instructed people to love Al-Qaida (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-35) and he forgave the sins of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because even murderous insurgents “know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34).
If being an African-American man means I'm still at the bottom of the social heap, then I take refuge in the fact that Jesus identifies with the outcasts. If disagreeing with my government brings accusations of sympathy for terrorists, I am encouraged by the fact that I serve a Lord who was wrongfully executed as one. And they'll just have to keep tryin' to catch me ridin' dirty.