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Malcolm Gladwell recently produced a podcast series called Revisionist History. As described on the website (revisionisthistory.com):
“Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.”
Over the past few days, I have applied a bit of Revisionist History to my life.
I have been blessed, and do not take that for granted. I have a wonderful wife to whom I have been married for 22 years, three beautiful children, and a career that I enjoy and in which I have experienced some degree of success. However, as I think back, I have come to the realization that a different outcome to an event that occurred when I was in college could have caused a very different result.
When I was a sophomore in college, three of my fraternity brothers and I were preparing to drive from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we attended the University of Michigan, to Saginaw, Michigan, where I grew up. I drove to their house to pick them up, and just as we were about to get on the highway, we were pulled over by the Ann Arbor police. Assuming it was just a normal traffic stop, I went to reach for my driver’s license and registration. Then I heard:
“Driver, take the keys out of the ignition and throw them out the window.”
I knew at that moment this was very different. The next few moments were some of the scariest of my life.
“With your left hand, reach out the window and open the driver side door.”
“Exit the vehicle with your hands up, facing away from me.”
“Walk backwards to the sound of my voice.”
“Down on your knees.”
The four of us ended up in handcuffs and sitting on the side of the road as the police searched my vehicle.
Fortunately, this encounter with the police did not end tragically, as have some that have transpired in recent months and days.
Apparently, before I picked up my friends, they had been shooting a BB gun in their backyard. Someone had seen them shooting the gun and called police, believing it was a real weapon. So the police were pulling us over believing we had a gun in the car. It is sobering to think about all the things that could have gone wrong during this stop. When I reached for my license and registration, that could have been misinterpreted. In my fear, had I failed to follow a command, that could have been the end.
When it was all over, the police officers (who were white) shook hands with us (who were black) and apologized for the misunderstanding. They also wished us the best in our education. I am thankful that these officers did not rush to judgment, and that they followed protocol. And I know that the overwhelming majority of police officers are like those officers I encountered that day.
My three children are 20, 17 and 16. They are all driving. As a parent, I worry constantly about the myriad of risks that come with driving – accidents, injury, car trouble, etc. While I know my children are not perfect, I could not be more proud of their accomplishments and the young man and women that they have become. But recent events remind me that I have one more thing to worry about when my kids are driving. It is the fear that they will be victims of mistaken identity. It is the fear that a sudden move might be misinterpreted. It is the fear that they might fall victim to someone who has sworn to protect and serve them.
In twenty years, when my children are looking back on the events of this time, I hope that it will be a Revisionist History moment for them, too. My hope is that they will see the events of the past few days and years as the catalyst for real change, and that they will live in a world where the only thing they will have to worry about as their children are driving (or flying, hovering or transporting) are the transportation risks -- and nothing else.
Roosevelt Mosley is a Principal and Consulting Actuary with Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, Inc. and has 22 years of experience in the property/casualty insurance industry. His skill set includes predictive analytics applications for all insurance functions, ratemaking and product development, competitive analysis and litigation support. Roosevelt is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (FCAS) and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA). He serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the CAS. In addition, he serves on the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA) Auto Issues Committee and the Price Optimization Task Force. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the CAS, the Board of Directors of the International Association of Black Actuaries and CAS and AAA Governance Task Forces.
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