Black Men Driving: Race, Gender, and the Rhetoric of Announcing Presence

I have had regular hour-plus commutes for over a decade now. During this time I have consistently noticed an interesting correlation: Drivers who drive with the driver-side window down and with their arm/hand on the edge or slightly outside of the car are often (80-90 percent of the time) Black men. Said driver is also always going slower than the posted speed limit (and flow of traffic). I have also noticed while “people watching” that drivers with their windows up are typically not Black men. 

Such situations make me think more about the racialization of driving. What do such actions fully mean? What kinds of hopes and fears do they speak to? How else is driving a racialized event? What kind of de facto systems of segregation exist on some roads? 

Clearly, by having their left arm visible these drivers are announcing their presence to other drivers in a very deliberate way. That such announcement is necessary even in perfectly normal and casual driving conditions speaks volumes to their knowledge of history and sense of proactively trying to stay safe from people who might fear their existence in said time and place.

To be continued 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda