The Dangers of Driving While Black and Deaf
Every morning, I put on my hearing aids to bring some clarity into my life. I can hear, just not well. When I do not wear my hearing aids, the people who are talking sound like they are mumbling to me. So, I wear them from the moment I wake up until it is time to go to sleep (they are uncomfortable to sleep in).
I drive to work and walk around with my group of students at my community center. I forget that I am a Black woman with a hearing disability until someone points it out. I wear my identity proudly, but what if my identity gets me in trouble one day?
Lately, with the increase of Blacks being gunned down by the police, I wonder how my interaction would go if I were to be stopped. This has been a reality of mine since Oscar Grant, which happened in my city, about five minutes away from my home.
I am afraid that I have to really lip read the police officers’ lips and let them know that I have a hearing disability and I will follow their instructions so they will not think that I am being disobedient. My license and registration are current and I make sure of that to minimize that risk.
I talked to my Deaf/hard of hearing friends about how do they tell the police that they are Deaf without the police thinking that they are reaching for a weapon (trying to communicate in sign language could be mistaken for anything, if people aren’t aware) . They showed me a card that they kept in their wallet that they handed on top of their license. I felt some relief in knowing that I could obtain one of those cards.
Still, I have one more issue. My skin color. Is my skin color a reason for them to harass me more? I have been pulled over by the police a few times but they were cool and gave me a ticket (yes, it is cool to get a ticket instead of tased or beaten). Well, at least I lived to see another day and I lost a few dollars that I would make again in no time. I have to deal with these issues every day when I go out of my house and I constantly think of ways to prevent me from having a situation escalate.
These are the things I think about while White people get to say how beautiful the sky looks and not have a care in the world. I just want to get home every night and be like Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”