Vivian Morrison’s story written by Sherri Beaty
Vivian is 60 years old
I’m black, so I live in a time warp. I live in the same year, the same decade, the same century as everyone else, but I also live in this strange and terrifying universe where one false step, one wrong word, can send you sliding down uncontrollably into that time warp where Jim Crow still runs the show.
In that place, no one sees who you are in your community. They don’t see you volunteering, or teaching, or helping your neighbors and your family. They don’t see the years you spent pursuing your education or supporting a local church. They don’t see you loving your children and doing your best to be a good mother. They only see that you are black, and suddenly, for you, it looks like 2013, but it feels and sounds like 1930.
I had no idea it would turn out the way it did. Maybe I never would have made that phone call in the first place if I had known. But I knew this person; we had met before. She knew my family and I trusted her.
I didn’t call 911. It wasn’t an emergency. It was just a family dispute and because I knew this officer, and she had met both me and Toni (my adult daughter), I knew she could talk to Toni in a way that maybe she could hear. Cops do that all the time, right?
Toni wanted to use my car to go visit some people I didn’t know and they didn’t look like nice people to me. I couldn’t stop her from going, but she was NOT taking my car.
Since Toni wasn’t listening, I called dispatch and asked for this police officer by name. When she first showed up, I was relieved. Then I saw the four black and whites trailing in behind her. My heart was in my throat and my stomach at the same time. Why were there four additional cars? This was not a domestic violence call. No one was being threatened. I hadn’t called 911.
The first officer got out of her car and said to the other officers, “It’s OK, I don’t need you.” But they didn’t leave. They were already walking toward us as they began putting their gloves on. I knew what that meant. Somebody was going to jail today.
They grabbed Toni first, and she struggled, she is a big girl and she didn’t want to go to jail, but she had not done anything for them to take her, so of course she was asking why were they trying to arrest her?
Well, I’m a mother, and that is my daughter, and they just walked up and put their hands on her, so I did move over to them to try to keep them from taking her, but I was trying to talk to them too. I just wanted them to talk to us, but it was like they already knew before they got there that they were taking us to jail. So the one officer grabbed my arm and twisted it behind my back, and because I had a mastectomy, that was really painful. He slammed me into my neighbor’s truck, and he threw me so hard it actually did damage to the truck. He said in his police report that I caused injury to his arm. Shoot. I didn’t hurt him.
They charged me with three counts: Battery Resulting in Bodily Injury; Resisting Law Enforcement; and Disorderly Conduct. I had a bench trial, and I was found NOT GUILTY on all three counts.
That judge knew what it was. Thank God he is a good man, and cares about doing what is right. But what if he wasn’t?
This story originally appeared in Facing Racism in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by R.A.C.E. Muncie in Muncie, Indiana.