Stop! You’re Killing Me!

All of the public killings and the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery have really been emotionally exhausting to watch. I cannot compute why black people are so feared and hated in this country. I mean, we BUILT a good deal of this country. We raised white children often giving them much more love and affection than we gave our own. We continuously forgive egregious treatment and remain open to try again with our white neighbors. We have tolerated horrible disparities in health, financial advancement, and education… What did we EVER do to whites that was soooo bad that we should be murdered in the streets by our government? In my experience, black people often treat white people better than we treat each other—maybe out of fear? I’m not sure.

As I watched the videos of Arbery’s lynching & Floyd’s merciless murder, I just began to thank God for my life. I am so grateful that my own horrific encounter with a very unstable white GA state patrolman and his colleagues in rural GA did not end in my own death.

In 2015, I was speeding to the hospital to do an emergent cesarean for a baby in distress. I saw blue lights and i slowed down, but I didn’t stop. I was run off the road by GSP in the middle of downtown Thomaston, GA. When I looked over at the officer, he had his gun pointed at my head. He was clearly very afraid and/or angry. His hand was shaking and he was sweating. He told me to keep my hands where he could see them, then he told me to open the door and get out of the car. I knew in that moment with very clear certainty that he was so pumped up on adrenaline that he would kill me if I made a wrong move, so I very calmly told him I could not open the door without moving my hand from where he could see it. He kept his gun trained on my head as he opened the door. I tried to explain that I have a patient on the operating table for cesarean. He told me to get on the ground. He handcuffed me so tight I could barely feel my fingers and had tender purple bruises on my wrists for days. I was wearing bright yellow scrubs with “Dr Joy Baker, OBGYN” embroidered on the shirt. EIGHT more officers, all of them white, showed up and some of them said very unkind things. A female officer made me bend over the police car while she searched me. The original officer finally contacted the hospital and the nurse confirmed that they were waiting on me to perform the c-section. I clearly heard the officer say, “well you’re gonna have to get another doctor cuz she’s going to jail today!”

I was put in the back the police car and taken to a holding cell. It was dark in there. A lady peed on the floor in the corner. I sat there on a concrete block for FOUR hours, as the GSP officer sat outside in his vehicle the entire time “writing up my charges,” so I was not allowed to be booked or given bail until said charges were complete. The black officers and a few white officers were incensed about my having been arrested and apologized profusely. Everyone remarked on “how calm I was.” I only spoke to answer direct question. I knew if I started to speak, the rage inside me would come spewing out, and I know speaking in anger would only make my situation worse. Finally, my department chair, a well-respected, older white Doctor who had been constantly calling the station about me, just walked into the jail just as they were trying to book me. He had called the sheriff and demanded I be released. He was soooo angry. He looked at me and said, “Let’s get out of here.” And he walked me out of the jail. No one even tried to stop him. He took me to get my car and made sure I got home ok. He took over my night call at the hospital and told me to rest. I had to get a local attorney, and spent >10k to get the charges dropped so I would not lose my medical license due to a felony charge for “evading the police.”

The most crushing thing about this case was that just 2 weeks earlier, my Caucasian scrub tech had been blue-lighted on the way to an emergent c-section. She didn’t stop. Once she turned into the hospital and jumped out of her car, the officer simply pulled off. Not even a warning.
I was devastated and fearful for quite a while. My attorney explained to me that anyone, including an ambulance driver must stop for blue lights—regardless of the situation. I just don’t know how I would explain to any family that their baby died because I got pulled over. Every minute matters when you have a baby in distress, and I wasn’t willing to risk it by stopping. The whole incident just reminded me that in the eyes of some policemen, I will always be a suspect. I may be a doctor, but I’m perceived as just an “uppity nigga” by some people. A white police officer’s suspicion of me, whether founded or unfounded can easily turn deadly. Turns out the office who stopped me at gun point had just been disciplined for recent inappropriate “crazy cowboy behavior” was how my attorney put it.

I often wonder what made him so afraid of me—a lone, unarmed black woman in sunshine yellow scrubs with sunflowers embroidered on them…maybe it was my big Afro, or the skin I’m in that made him call 8 other cops, one of which told me that I was lucky the “nicer cop” stopped me, because he would have maneuvered so that I flipped my car and might not have been alive. I’d never experienced that kind of malicious attitude from any officer in my life. I grew up being the only black in my class for the majority of grade school and in my undergrad. I didn’t really believe that black people were so hated—I thought that was only in the stories my parents and grandparents told about segregation. Most of my teachers and the kids I went to school with loved me, and I loved them… that day broke something in me. Every time I speak of it, I get emotional. That was the day I realized overt racism is still very REAL in this country.

I grieve for the lives of Ahmaud, Breonna, George and all of my brothers and sisters killed in a spirit of fear and hatred, by those sworn to serve and protect them. I know all white people are not overtly or even covertly racist. I know all police are not murders. I know this just like I know all doctors are not negligent or egomaniacal. I also know that there are way too many white people who remain silent and therefore complicit in racial injustice, and that too many police are practically trained to fear and be overly aggressive with people of color—especially black people. I know this just like I know doctors who don’t speak up when they KNOW their colleague are doing dangerous things or failing to do the right things for patients—I’m guilty of it myself. No one really wants the smoke that comes with bucking the system too much. The problem is that in the end, people can die because we don’t speak up more!

Blacks are 2.5 x more like to be killed by police than our white counterparts which is really sad when you consider that we make up only 13% of the US population, while whites make up 62% of the population. These are not just deaths of “insignificant criminals,” or even innocent blacks. These killings by police and citizens acting as police have been the slow erosion and death of everything this country is supposed to stand for—liberty and justice and equal opportunity for all. These killings are a blood guilt on our nation. The blood of senselessly murdered minorities cries out to God just as the blood of Abel did when Cain murdered his brother simply out of contempt. Please know that God sees this. He hears us cry out, and He will hold this nation accountable. We are our brother’s keeper.

Cuff marks