- Dec 5, 2015
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
Leland Melvin has logged more than 565 hours in space, gone on two separate missions to help build the International Space Station and traveled around Earth at 17,500 miles per hour — but none of that compares to the fear and anxiety he feels while being pulled over by a police officer.
While speaking on a panel Monday about Black lives in the space industry as part of the 2020 Virtual Humans to Mars Summit, the former NASA astronaut, who is Black, revealed he always felt apprehensive about interacting with cops due to the color of his skin.
"I've been on this rocket with millions of pounds of thrust and not once was I afraid of going to space," Melvin, 56, shared, according to CNN. "It's when I've been stopped by police officers that I didn't even know ... I was starting to sweat and just holding the steering wheel really hard."
"Every father in the Black community has a conversation with their son to tell them that if you get stopped by an officer... you assume the position, which is 10-2 [hands on the wheel], look straight ahead," he continued. "You tell the officer, you know, you're real respectful, you say you're reaching for your obvious things."
Melvin explained that his perspective on police officers was shaped from the time he was young, recalling one particular moment from his high school years that occurred while he was in the car with his then-girlfriend, the outlet reported.
"I was in a car with my girlfriend and a police officer rolled up on us," he said. "He took her out of the car and told her that I was raping her because he wanted me to go to jail."
Black NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin: Police Are Scarier Than Space | PEOPLE.com
A lot of people don't understand what it means exactly to be black and interact with the police. Cops pull over blacks, simply for being black and for that reason alone.
I remember a poster on this board saying if he had a black son he would treat and talk to his black son the same way as his white son. This is completely out of touch with the real world. For a black kid to be pulled over, it could literally mean life or death. Many cops view blacks as "threats" based on the color of their skin. Now if that black person has a past criminal record? Forget it.