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The Dangers of Driving While Black and Deaf

Updated: Jul 26, 2016 18:06
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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.”

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Joy Elan

Joy Elan

Joy Elan is an award winning author and spoken word artist from Oakland and Berkeley, CA. She received her BA degree in African American Studies at UC Berkeley and her MA degree in Education at Stanford University. Her books are available on (poetry, non-fiction, and fiction genres). For more information, go to