If you spent your holiday looking at the internet, you may have seen a video that Erykah Badu posted to her Instagram on New Year’s Eve, in which the neo-soul icon was seemingly pulled over by a couple of giddy fanboys on the police department in her Dallas hometown. “Why are you pulling me over?” Badu asks in the clip, filming herself with a smartphone in the driver’s seat of a car. “Because I wanted to say hi,” a police officer answers with a bit of nervous laughter. Rather than being angry at this rude and probably illegal invasion of her privacy, Badu laughs as well.
Blogs and news outlets including New York Daily News, New York Post, Essence, and The Root picked up the video as news. “Erykah Badu Got Pulled Over By Police In Texas And The Reason Why Has Fans Concerned,” reads a headline from BET.com. That concern is understandable if you take the video at face value: Aside from the shady behavior of this particular cop, there’s also the eerily familiar setup of a black woman filming herself during a traffic stop, to say nothing of the long history of unwarranted police violence against black people in general.
But should we really be taking the video at face value? For one thing, everything about it feels a little staged, from the officer’s ready admission that he had no real reason to stop her to Badu’s deadpan reaction. Also, it seems unlikely that a cop would recognize Badu behind the wheel with enough confidence to pull her over. Most importantly, there’s a second video in which Badu stands with the two officers in front of a house. She doesn’t exactly admit that the first video was a ruse, but she comes close. “We’re just having fun, New Year’s Eve,” she says. “I wasn’t harassed or anything.”
Finally, there’s the fact that the Dallas Police Department responded to Badu’s house on a call about an alleged stalker and trespasser on the same night, as reported by a local ABC affiliate. Given the second video, my theory is that the responding officers were fans, and that Badu asked them to stage the first video as a joke, which the news media took a little too seriously. We’ve reached out to a DPD spokesperson for more information, and will update this post if we hear back.