American culture is steeped in the mythology of the open road. In our collective imagination, the road represents freedom, escape, friendship, romance, and above all, the possibility for a better life. But our shared dream of the open road comes to a halt in the mundane reality of the traffic stop—a judicially authorized policing procedure in which an officer may pull over a vehicle if she has cause to believe the driver has committed even the most minor traffic violation. I examine the cultural texts—books, movies, songs—celebrating the open road and juxtapose them against those documenting the traffic stop. The traffic stop, I conclude, interrupts the open road narrative closely associated with the American dream. Those stopped most frequently—in particular, racial minorities—are consequently denied full participation in an abiding national fantasy.
Forum Response: Brooks Holland, Imagining the Open Road