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Questlove, the multi-talented, affable percussionist for The Roots, took to Instagram to share his experiences as a black man behind the wheel.

In the early morning of Nov. 17, possibly after getting pulled over, Questlove posted a video with a lengthy caption detailing some of the experiences he's had "driving while black."

Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company.


"Getting pulled over is like one of the most degrading things that can happen to you, when you look like me. You see the fingers are on the trigger, and these lights are blinding you, these flashlights. There's a lot of coded questions, 'cause they're basically trying to figure out how can you afford the vehicle that you have."

Questlove's success and celebrity do not insulate him from inappropriate, alarming, or potentially dangerous interactions with the police.

After a traumatic experience getting pulled over at 16 for a case of "mistaken identity," Questlove lost his interest in driving and didn't get a car of his own until he was 33. His first wheels? A Scion XB, an affordable, lunchbox shaped car that almost looks like a pint-sized delivery truck. (After the model was retired in 2015, Jalopnik penned a loving obituary to the "goofy little box" they "loved.") Officers would joke to him, "It looks like you stole a college student's car" — an offensive statement on multiple levels.

But really: Why the XB? It was the least-threatening car on the road, and Questlove was a successful, internationally renowned musician at the time. This wasn't about looks or speed. It was about coming home alive.

"[O]ne can’t find the words to describe to the feeling of panic, guilt, anxiety & trauma one feels when they won’t know the outcome of this getting pulled over scenario. This is not an exaggeration folks."

Questlove's fears are not misplaced. Statistically, a black driver is around 30% more likely to be pulled over than a white driver. And while the number of deaths caused by law enforcement officers declined a bit in 2016, young black men aged 15 to 34 were nine times more likely to be killed by police than other American demographic groups.

Pallbearers carrying the casket of Philando Castile after his funeral. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

And it's not limited to once or twice every few years. For Questlove, these moments happen every few months.

As many as six times a year. The panic. The fear. The degrading feeling of powerlessness. Six. Times. A. Year.

While Questlove is sometimes recognized and let go without incident, what of the people of color pulled over, harassed, roughed up, or arrested because they aren't celebrities? Where is the justice for them?

"This has been going on for 8 years now. 6 times a year. Without fail. Results are always the same: search for the (literal? preverbal?) smoking gun because I’m NOT supposed to be in a car THIS nice.If they know it’s me they lemme go w/o fail. But what about those without the benefit of a doubt? they ain’t getting off so easy. something has GOT to give folks."

GIF via Questlove/Instagram.

Questlove is not the only black celebrity speaking up about their experiences and calling for equal justice.

Police officers raised their weapons at, handcuffed, and forcibly detained NFL star Michael Bennett after gun shots were heard on the Las Vegas strip. He shared his story in an open letter on Twitter.

"I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was 'I'm going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.'"

In 2015, comedian Chris Rock had a series of tweets with selfies detailing his three traffic stops in seven weeks, each one with the outcome, "Wish me luck." Rock's tongue-in-cheek caption has a grain of truth — yes, he came out the other side, but not everyone is that lucky.

If you want to be an ally in the struggle for equality, there's an easy way to start.

People of color are not asking for special privileges or treatment. We're simply asking to be treated fairly with decency and respect. For too long, these demands haven't been taken seriously, or somehow mischaracterized as "unpatriotic." But is it too much to simply be seen as human beings?

To be a strong ally, the best thing you can do is listen. Our stories are real. So is our pain and fear. As Questlove put it: "Listen & Believe us when we tell you what’s goin on out here. next time y’all feel like reminding me life Is different cause im on tv."

Watch Questlove's video and read his heartfelt post in full.

I was a late bloomer in driving because I had a traumatic experience getting pulled over when I was 16 (“mistaken identity”) I was so traumatized I never even told my parents because they woulda just made me always stay in house even on weekends. As a teen i shied away from getting my license because I automatically assumed that would make me a prime target for an ass whuppin. b4 the “well, if you have nothing to be guilty of, then you’ll have nothing to worry about” just stop it. I finally got my first car at 33. A #ScionXB. why? It was too silly to even be a threat. It was a goofy breadbox on wheels. I mean it was charming somewhat. but one can’t find the words to describe to the feeling of panic, guilt, anxiety & trauma one feels when they won’t know the outcome of this getting pulled over scenario. This is not an exaggeration folks. I’ve been let go plenty of times, but why should one have to work w jay z, or do that funny bit w chappelle to be given the benefit of the doubt? (back when I was in the music making business my car was the judge/jury: make a gang of beats or maybe just having mastered the new Roots album and I drive/listen to it for 3-4 hours near Temple/Drexel/UPenn which i learned was bad news.) examine that one: A life where one has to compress & re adjust to make others feel safe. I mean yes, be considerate and aware of other people’s surroundings. But man...me writing this rant is like Tre punching the air in #BoyzInTheHood. That’s how mad I am. This has been going on for 8 years now. 6 times a year. Without fail. Results are always the same: search for the (literal? preverbal?) smoking gun because I’m NOT supposed to be in a car THIS nice. If they know it’s me they lemme go w/o fail. But what about those without the benefit of a doubt? they ain’t getting off so easy. something has GOT to give folks. I was shaking earlier & typing this out is calming me down. Listen & Believe us when we tell you what’s goin on out here. next time y’all feel like reminding me life Is different cause im on tv. I’m tagging you. Next time you lecture me cause I’m explaining why peaceful protest in needed, I’m tagging you. goodnight. peace.

A post shared by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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