The Daniel Holtzclaw convictions led to a long overdue conversation with my husband about whether or not a Black woman can every really feel “safe” today.
Like most husbands, mine prides himself on his ability to keep me safe in every situation possible. He always walks closest to the traffic. He makes sure I don’t have to walk or stand alone in sketchy places. He walks in the house before I walk in. He notices and investigates every single discrepancy, odd behavior or strange noise in our immediate vicinity. Okay, he’s no 007, but at least he 's trying.
Since our first date, my husband has never messed around when it comes to my safety. Some might call it chivalry, but I just know that’s how he loves me best. Even during the times I’m confident I can protect myself without any help, it has always been comforting to know I have such devoted “backup.” All of this is why my husband’s heated reaction to the Daniel Holtzclaw verdict sparked such an interesting conversation between us about what it actually means for him to “keep me safe” today, with so many seemingly uncontrollable threats at play, particularly for Black men and women right now.
“Now I also have to worry about you getting pulled over by a racist predator among all these other things,” he said angrily, referring to former Oklahoma City police Holtzclaw, who targeted Black women based on their criminal history and backgrounds then raped and sodomized them. On Thursday, Holtzclaw was found guilty of 18 of the 36 charges against him.
“I’m curious why this particular rape case is affecting you so much more than all of the others we hear about on the news,” I ask him. “I don’t want you to worry.”
“Of course I worry, because it could happen to you, my mother, my sisters at any time,” he responded, standing abruptly to emphasize his point. “That officer saw those Black women as less than other women for being Black ‘criminals’ or women no one would believe. What happens when you bump into one who believes you’re less than other women just for being Black?”
Of course he’s right. Police-instigated violence against Black women is making news headlines more than ever before. I’m aware. He’s aware. We’re both horrified. But what can we really do? “Getting pulled over by the police has always been a potentially life threatening situation for Black men,” he adds. “Now I worry just as much about something horrible happening to you.”
I think if he could, he’d want me to never drive alone—to never put myself in a situation where I could be alone with a police officer. I constantly reassure him that I know my rights. His response: “Sandra Bland knew her rights too.” He’s right again.
I remind him that I worry for his safety constantly too. He’s not a troublemaker or a criminal or a threat. But through the eyes of a racist officer, he will always look like one. He knows that. I know that. The truth is Black men and women are targeted and victimized by law enforcement every single day just for breathing and living our lives and for doing the same exact things our white equals do without conflict. He can’t always keep me safe; the world isn’t safe. We will continue to have these heavy, open-ended conversations about how to keep each other safe in a world that isn’t. Are you also having these conversations?
I admire my husband even more each day for being as angry and scared for my safety as I am for his. I appreciate him being vigilant about my wellbeing and I can only hope that more Black men will continue to step up and do the same for Black women.