Mistaken Identity

Early evening, dusky, we saw police lights rolling out our front windows, the blue and red of coming and going but in this case stopping.

And I thought I recognized the stopped car, but couldn’t be sure — my neighbor who is in high-school and, or his friends?

Certainly something is wrong, is not right when the police did not just stop the car but blocked the street from through traffic. Two black police SUVs and a cruiser. And something is wrong when the police have guns pointed at the car and its occupants.

And I watched as the driver exited the car, hands up, backing up, patted down and cuffed. And then a passenger, and a second passenger — hands up, backing up, patted down, cuffed, car emptied. Hood, trunk, doors opened. All clear.

My neighborhood is bird-chirping quiet. While the scene unfolded in the street, people walked their dogs to the corner and looked, I watched a cyclist stay the course and just pedal past the cruiser. Life goes on after all. And my husband took the dog out and while he did my neighbor came out of her house, her son’s home. What is going on? There had been no sirens, no sound of warning to get her out of the house any sooner.


Today, I wake to the thought of my own identity mistaken. I’ve seen my doppelganger in a photo. And so I do not fault the police. There are bad, evil people out there and we know that the job we ask the police to do — to protect and serve — contains all the right, all the wrong, and all the grays in between. It is not binary. The bad guys have doppelgangers. The good guys have doppelgangers. Based on photographic evidence, it appears I might have been at a Stockholm Motorcycle Fair. I wasn’t. It looks like me, but it wasn’t.

Being presented with a photo of a mirror image of oneself taken across the ocean does not register on the scale of the experience of a physical confrontation with real authority, real weapons, real and present danger while driving in your own neighborhood.

And as I put my little safety pin on today, it looks wretchedly pathetic, a minuscule token of what? Awareness? Insight? Empathy? No, it can’t be. After watching that drama with real police, real guns, real African-American teenagers backed into a wall — all that experience, all that fear, all so young. No, I don’t have nearly enough for anybody.

I’m too old to carry a security blanket and suck my thumb.

The safety pin will have to do for now.

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