Much to my chagrin, my mother loves telling the story, when I was about 4, of when my exasperated Aunt Annie Mae asked me why I talked so much. Apparently, without missing a beat, I shot right back, "Cause I got a lot to say!"
Much to my mother's chagrin, I was a pretty precocious kid, always asking questions. Hard to believe, right? Good training, I guess.
One day I violated my mother's direction to "stay out of grown folk's business," and inquired, "Why do they need a study for THAT?"
I don't rightly recall the "that" I was asking about, but I do recall that these adults were discussing a study that had just been released, revealing yet another reality that black folk confronted almost daily, but apparently big news to all others.
I can vividly remember one of the adults saying to me, "Son, white folk need data."
I guess I sort of understood what he was saying to me at that tender age, but every time I see another study highlighting the drama that black folk have to navigate almost daily, I remember his words: White folk need data.
Well, in case you still didn't know, after all the random stops and officer-involved deaths of black men, women and children caught on tape, police officers are significantly less respectful and consistently ruder toward black motorists than they are toward white drivers.
I could tell you I know this because I've been black my whole life and I've had my share of run-ins with cops, or I could tell you I know this because my black family and friends have also been black their entire lives, and many of them have had similar experiences.
But, alas, the research has finally been completed by scientists at Stanford University to confirm what we have known for years and have a preponderance of evidence to prove.
But ... white folk need data.
Well, here it is. What now?
The Stanford study, "Language from police body camera footage shows racial disparities in officer respect," is hardly earth-shattering.
Does it really matter that utterances spoken to white fellow citizens are consistently more respectful? Does it really matter that black folk are often told to keep their hands on the steering wheel and white drivers are greeted with, "Sorry to stop you..."?
Does it really matter that this data comes from officers wearing body cameras — so, they know they're being filmed and they still do it? Does it really matter that black folk have been sharing these stories for years? Does it really matter to all the black citizens who ended up catching a case and having a police record over an altercation with a cop that escalated from disrespectful or inhumane treatment during a routine traffic stop? Does it really matter to the ones who are no longer here to tell their side of the story?
I'm not naive, but I do look forward to the day when the data won't be so sacrosanct, as if black truthtelling cannot be trusted. I look forward to the day when the decency, dignity and humanity of black lives will be given the same high regard as that of white lives in America. And not just by police officers, but by all fellow citizens to all fellow citizens.
What is breaking news to some, is heartbreaking news to others. Research is pivotal, but respect is paramount.