We sat in the car nervously. We had a Nigerian driver for today’s excursion and the police had pulled our car over. It would seem that three black women and a black driver were cause for concern in Malaysia
They demanded our passports and none of us had them with us. We hadn’t thought and so the driver was asked to step out.
They want money I thought.
In Ghana, my driver was tired of dashing anything to the policemen. The one who pulled us over on that Christmas Eve morning was drunk. I smelt the alcohol on his breath and saw the gun swinging carelessly on his arm. I became worried for I had not gone to Ghana to die! I suggested to the driver,
I will pay. It is not a problem!
He did not care anymore for he was tired. His Christmas earnings were disappearing and there seemed to be stop points at every junction. I paid and we moved on.
The policemen in Malaysia looked so young on that morning. He had demanded that the tinted windows be opened. As he heard our English, Carribean and Yorkshire accents, he seemed confused though. Somewhat agitated too. He may not have been able to identify our accents but it wasn’t what he expected. After all, all black people are Nigerian….
Passports! Where are your passports? He asked
I felt a slight anxiety begin to rise. We, like any vulnerable group, could be taken to a police station and never seen again. People did not stay connected in this day and age. Once they did not hear from you, a fleeting thought of I wonder what happened to so and so would so be lost I the noise and disruption of gadgets and social media.
The driver came back to the car where his brow showed signs of serious tension.
Where are your passports? he asked. He knew the answer yet hoped they would appear…just to make this situation right.
My day of black girl magic had started with the reminder that black peoples power is so great that the whole damn world is threatened.
We want to see your passports
No problem, you just need to follow us to the hotel and we’ll present them, we confirmed.
I work here, I repeated. He didn’t flinch. He was preparing to deliver the classic line
I am the police. I don’t follow you! You follow me to the station! There it was! Power over those who, at the moment, have very little!
I work here, I repeated. It is an MOE project, I said He didn’t flinch. I tried giving him specific details of where the office is and the name of the departments who we worked with. He was not interested.
Has your work permit run out? He asked, smiling
I reminded myself that the woman who carried the AK47 was not needed today so I simply smiled too. My sister stepped in and stated what everyone knew.
If we follow you to the police station, we still won’t have our passports!
Don’t get loud with me. He responded. She was not loud. She was a gentle professional black woman. It was clearly time to retreat.
Let’s go back to the car I suggested, leaving the driver to negotiate his (and our) way out of this one. He came to the car just after we sat down and took some money from his wallet.
How much are you giving them? I asked
I only have 50, he answered as he hoped this would buy us our freedom today.
OK. I said. I was angry at the global abuse of power that police people demonstrate. I wondered where the land was that this did not take place.
Some of the women in the car were surprised. I was not for I knew this from Ghana, Jamaica, South Africa, Tunisia, and Malaysia. And yes, it happens in the UK!! It was not a surprise. The stop. The threat. The unreasonable demands. More threats. The solution to help us. The result is that we really don’t need to go to the station. And then, the exchange!
With passports in hand, we began the day again. We would not be defeated!