I am the father of two brown boys. Amongst the various responsibilities that come with leading a family, ensuring their safety is of high priority. To ensure their safety means that I must equip them to exist as black men in America. I was recently given a beautiful message from a friend.
“From our family to yours, from a "white" family to a "black" family we are sorry that this is how you are attacked and how we are portrayed. I love you guys and your family. Raising our child to not pay attention to color, but love only, is a job that I've been grateful to pass down from my father. Although it does not change this world, please know that we see the problem and are doing everything in our ability to keep our children on the correct side of the ignorant fence this country has put up against other beautiful human beings. Black lives matter, big time, to this white family…all love. I salute you and stand behind you as a parent. You have to have certain conversations with your boys that I'll never have to have with mine. And there's a very big problem with that.”
This message was real & transparent. However, it is possibly the first time I have heard this stated from the lips of someone not black. There are conversations that I will have to have with my children that my white friends will simply never have to have.
In one breathe, I tell them… you are strong, you are smart, with focus you can do anything that you set your mind to. In the same breathe, I have an obligation to inform them that certain people in higher authority may disrespect you… and when they do, say yes sir and no sir. In one breathe, I tell them that they are superheroes and can achieve their dreams… the next breathe… the playing field is not even… for you to be considered somewhat equal, you have to reach Michael Jordan excellence in everything you do. To ensure the safety of my boys, I must let them know that a traffic stop is not about respect. It is about making it home alive.
2 years ago… on the way home from school, my 3rd grader had a question for me. Apparently, he got into a bit of a disagreement with a fellow classmate at school that day. I was told by his teacher that the other kid involved was acting aggressively towards my child. According to the teacher, my son was simply trying to figure out why his classmate was so upset. Looking distraught on the way home, my son asked me, “Dad, why did the teacher’s assistant grab me but no one held back my angry classmate?” For some reason, my brown child was looked at as the aggressor even though he wasn’t
That story reminded me of when a friend & I were pulled over… routine traffic stop. According to the police officer, the passenger rear tire crossed over the white line on the right side of the road… honestly, those were his words. The officer, then asked my friend and I to exit the vehicle. After doing that, I was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of the police car. My friend, who is not black, was highly upset. As I was escorted to the police car, I tried my best to calm him… telling him, “dude relax… just answer the officer’s questions and this will be over soon… Don’t freak out bro.” The other officer, questioned my friend outside of our vehicle… no cuffs. The remainder of that ride home, I had to explain to him my friend that what he had just experienced is, unfortunately, not uncommon.
Luckily, I was driving alone the one time I was handcuffed on the side of Broadway during Nashville rush hour. I was pulled over because the tiny light above my rear license plate was apparently not working. I had just come from locking up at work. At the time, I worked at a bank. I was dressed in a buttoned up shirt & tie… still nicely knotted. Unfortunately, I accidentally left my wallet at work… which meant that I would have to unlock the bank after this ordeal to get it. I communicated this to the officer. I also assured him that he would see that all of my driver’s license, registration, & insurance credentials were credible once he looks up my info. Hands on the wheel… yes sir… no sir… somehow, I still managed to end up bent over on the trunk of my car for 20 minutes in handcuffs for all of the downtown Nashville to see. I could hear the words of my father, “when it comes to cops… just make it home.” Thank God, I did.
Recently, there was a petition circulating regarding the killing of Harambe, the gorilla… an amazing animal (300,000 + signatures). Last year, there was a petition circulating in regards to justice being served for the killing of Cecil The Lion (137,648 signatures). Why is there such a lesser passion towards the murder of so many black fathers and black sons? Why are there so many people trying to justify the cracks in our law enforcement?
These are the things that I have to educate my children on. Of course, they will study the ugly history of America in schools. They will write reports on how our people became free. However, in the same breathe, I must caution them to limit the perception of their freedom. “Son, if your white friends are running around in a mall, acting like teenagers, you can’t do the same thing.” “Umm… no you cannot play with your friend & his toy guns in their front yard… someone may mistake your being a 10 year old carrying a supersoaker, with you being a 20 year old carrying an assault rifle.” This is real life people. #TamirRice
Fear God… respect authority… even when they don’t deserve it. It’s sheer survival out here. I hold on to hopeful messages like the one above, from my friend. It is not enough for me to have these conversations with my children. To all of my non-black friends… what conversations are you having with your white children? Are you honest with them about the privilege that they have? Are you educating them on how they also need to be verbal at the first sign of injustice being displayed in our country? Like above mentioned, I hope that there are other white fathers out there, standing with us black fathers… setting an healthy example for their children to follow. In times like these, we should all mourn together. We should stand together. I’m calling out all fathers… let’s lead our little men & little women towards true greatness.