As a black man that one day wishes to have a son to carry on the surname Young, there is a talk that I must have with my son(s) that the mere thought of I dread.[i] The awkward conversation that I speak of is not the one about sex. It is not the one about why you shouldn’t listen to Drake. It is the conversation about how to deal with law enforcement that fills me with unreasonable amounts of dread. The dread stems from the fact that unlike the talks about sex and the evils of listening to Aubrey the law enforcement talk shouldn’t be necessary.[ii]
Last night while listening to a local talk show that was discussing the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, by a “neighborhood watch” captain George Zimmerman and I started thinking that raising or being a little brown boy is a hell of a thing. For those of you who don’t know the late Trayvon Martin was profiled because he “looked suspicious” by Zimmerman who was on neighborhood patrol of sorts getting his Frank Castle on. Zimmerman made a call to local law enforcement about Trayvon walking through a gated community in the rain and was told to not engage and to wait for the police to arrive. Zimmerman didn’t listen and because he chose to not do what he was told Trayvon Martin is dead.[iii]
To be clear this isn’t about the foul deed that George Zimmerman has done or allegedly done. It’s about how young black males are viewed by men with badges and not so much by men like George Zimmerman who seemed to forget that he did not have a badge. Before I go any further let me state that I don’t hold any malice towards law enforcement as whole. The men and women who do that job for the most part are invaluable. I respect them for the most part and chuckle at the notion that one of the odd points of transitioning into adulthood is when you realize that “F*ck the police!” has been replace with “Where the f*ck are the police?” in your lexicon.
My dread comes when I think about the future. The future where I have a nice family and all of the stuff that comes along with that. I dread informing my son(s) that most black men in the United States have an uneasy relationship with the police. Dread seeps into my conscience when I think about the day that I have to sit down and tell my son(s) about how to deal with law enforcement who hopefully wants to help you and those who just perceive you a something you aren’t. My dread increases when I tell my son to not make sudden movements. I will fervently tell him to announce that you are reaching for your wallet by audibly saying “I’m getting my wallet!” when the cops ask to see some identification. Followed by complete but unnecessary explanations about your actions-telling officer so and so who you are and what you’re doing there.
More dread bubbles into the back of my throat like bile when I think about telling my son(s) to not trust or certain cops because they aren’t up to any good. This dread will no doubt increase when I see the look in my son(s) eyes when I say to them that “No son, it doesn’t matter if the cop is black like you or not, you still have to do what I’m telling you.” and see nothing but befuddlement. I will carry that look and reflect on it later when I’m looking into the mirror, shaving my head wondering why I have to prepare my son(s) for yet another unfair battle they have to fight but didn’t ask for. Sorry but my sons must study politics and war in addition to mathematics and philosophy- and this too deepens my sense of dread.
As a future father the dread will only continue as I think of my son(s) walking from the library at his college to the Starbucks around the corner at 11:30 at night only to find that he is being eye-balled by the occupants of a Crown Victoria or whatever the squad car of the future will be. This feeling continues as I tell them these things wondering if they too will one day have to instill this same knowledge into the minds of their son(s). Sure there are other instances of dread that I can only assume that comes with raising daughters but this is about sons.
Sadly, this is the world we inhabit. I wish this wasn’t the case but if I ever have son(s) this talk will have to happen. It must. Even if I were a cop I WOULD STILL have this same conversation with male progeny. Going back to my “Where the f**k is the police?” statement I only wished Trayvon could have spoken with a good cop who would have hopefully told George Zimmerman to go sit down after Trayvon Martin explained why he was there.
I’m not a parent but things like dealing with vigilantes and dirty cops make the seemingly unnecessary necessary things that my parents told my brother and I make so much sense. In hindsight they too experienced that same dread that for the moment I can only speculate about.
Vaya con Dios.
[i] Nothing against little chicas, who are adorable as all get out, but deep down whether they will admit it or not most dudes, would love to have a little dude to teach things.
[ii] “Got to. It’s America man.” This is the most versatile quote to ever come from The Wire. It fits into so many aspects of everyday life.
[iii] I don’t have all of the details in this case, hell it isn’t even a case right at the moment, but I speak only to how the surface issues appear.