The Pain of Being A Black Parent In Today’s America

The Pain of Being A Black Parent In Today’s America

December 18, 2019

By Keith L. Anderson, Ph.D.

Normally, I wait for the dust to settle to write my opinions. However, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are dead. They are two more young Black men killed by the White policemen. The sad thing about this is that it has become so commonplace, that it isn’t a shock anymore. I will say this, there is something very wrong.

I saw an interview with comedian D.L. Hughley. He had tears in his eyes as he talked about the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile killings. A few seconds into the interview he said a couple of things that caught my ears. First, he said he doesn’t know a Black parent who has not had the’ instruction discussion’ with their kids, especially their young Black male kids. My version of the ‘instruction discussion’ goes as follows:

  1. When stopped by the police keep both hands on the steering wheel.
  2. No matter if you know you’re right, do not disagree with the policeman.
  3. Say yes officer in the most polite way you can.
  4. Do not make any sudden moves.
  5. Even when the policeman ask you for your license and registration tell him that you’re reaching for it and move slowly.
  6. Because you’re Black, they get off on humiliating you. But, it is better to be humiliated than it is to be dead.
  7. Son, you have to realize that these police are killing us and they know that they will not get into trouble. They will get a paid vacation time and you will be dead. They will go home to their kids and smile and have fun and you will be dead.

As a Black man, I’ve been through this process many times, in several states in this country. And to be honest, over the years, I’ve noticed the policemen’s change in attitude. I’ve been in cars hen my White friends have been pulled over and they have been allowed to speak to the policemen in a more negative manner. If I would have talked to the officer that way, there’s a chance he would have shot my Black ass. So, to those of you who are White, and I say White because most Black people understand where I’m coming from, read and learn. Don’t judge!

The second thing he said was, when his son or sons are not at home, especially at night, he doesn’t go to bed. I have the same routine. I stay up and watch television until my son or sons are safe in the house. I was sharing my routine with a few co-workers. One of my co-workers told me that I was being a little over protective. She happened to be White co-worker. She’s someone I respect. I think her and her husband have done a great job with their two sons, who are now grown. So, I often ask her for advice about things. I had explained to her that I understood, raising kids is a difficult thing even when things are pretty routine. However, there’s an added dimension to the worries of parenting, when you’re a Black parent of young Black boys and men, in America today. We agreed to disagree. That’s what adults do sometimes.

Right now, you’re going to read what I write and it will be difficult. I’m not really giving a shit what people think about what I’m writing. If what’s going on doesn’t make you angry, then you’re part of the problem. I felt for a long time, that this is an important issue. We haven’t had to deal with this particular form of racism in Boise yet, but I decided to proactive. I did a free training on race and racism to the Boise Police Department over a year ago. And on the other end, I take every chance I get to work with teachers on how to better communicate with students of color. I do this because, I know writing articles isn’t enough. Writing articles won’t change anything. It’s a way to for me to vent and perhaps inform.

Like many parents, Black, White, Red, Yellow or Brown, I’ve worked my butt off to be able to provide for my kids. And what the hell is my reward? I have to sit at home and worry every damn time they leave the house. As a parent you get used to the regular worrying. Please Lord protect my kids from bullies and drunk drivers. But having to worry about the very people paid to protect society, used as a first line of defense, deadly force has me praying, Lord, keep my sons save from “that policeman”.

Why is this happening? It’s simple. There are no repercussions for them. And it seems that they have a get out of jail free card, when it comes to killing young Black men. This causes tears in a fathers’ gut and heart. I hope to hell no White father ever has to feel the kind of fear, Black fathers feel on a daily basis. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. There are no words for this kind of fear. The closes I can imagine is when Black slave women had to watch when their men were beaten by the overseer, just to prove a point, or to keep the other male slaves mentally on edge. Sometimes I wonder if there has been a memo that instructs policemen to shoot niggas and don’t worry about the consequences. This is happening too much to be just some strange coincidence.

The occurrence of police shooting young Black men passed ridiculous years ago. Now it can only be classified as the results of a sick society. We have become so used to this, that another one doesn’t faze society like it did a few years ago. Black people only make up 13% of the population of the united States. Of that Black men make up only 6%. Many studies suggest that the killings by policemen has one glaring factor. A large percentage of the victims are Black men. States the Washington Post back in December: Race remains the most volatile flash point in any accounting of police shootings. Although black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year, The Post’s database shows. In the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. But a hugely disproportionate number — 3 in 5 — of those killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic.

I believe a policemen should be allowed to protect themselves from visible DANGER! This bullshit about “I felt that my life was in danger or threatened” isn’t a good enough reason to kill unarmed civilians, of any skin color. Yes. policemen have a dangerous job. I know that. But, when your job is to protect society, dangerous situations will oftentimes be a part of the equation. Policemen should be trained to know a dangerous situation from a potentially dangerous situation. The citizen, especially the unarmed citizen should at the very least, get the benefit of the doubt. Killing someone because you feel threatened, is what untrained people do. Shouldn’t the public expect more from so-called trained officers of the law? Trained professional policemen should handle stressful and dangerous situations better than the general public and criminals. Our armed forces teaches our soldiers the difference between civilians and combatants. Why is it our policemen can’t seem to tell the difference between real danger and perceived danger? Why are they allowed to kill unarmed people because they feel uncomfortable?  Maybe there needs to be more money spent on teaching policemen human communication skills. Maybe there’s too much money spent on buying up armed forces type weapons to use on American civilians.

As far as why nothing has been done about the shooting of Black men, I’m putting the blame on every person with any measure of influence, who hasn’t spoken out on this, especially the wealthy Black people who seem to have an influence. So Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and the rest of you who think that because you make a lot of money this doesn’t affect you. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. One of the biggest mistakes people of color make when they get wealthy, is thinking that their money means they are somehow guarded against people who perpetrate injustice. What racist people are allowed to do to the least of us, they will eventually do to those of you who are wealthy.

Richard Pryor once asked in one of his routines, “How long will this bullshit go on? How long?” The answer in this case is, until everyone in America admits these shootings are going on. It will go on until there are as many people screaming at protests, as there are people screaming for some stupid as NBA Championship. In fact the NBA, employer of many young Black men, should be leading the charge against this form of racism. Where is the NCAA? Where are all the influential White college coaches making money off young Black men? Black parents need to question these coaches when they come to your home, want your young Black son to slam-dunk a basketball for them. While we’re at it, where are the Christian people of this country? Where are all those Black and White pastors and their mega churches? I guess God is busy.

Well, in the long run, all a brotha can do as a father, is to keep having the ‘instruction discussion’, with our kids. All we can do is love our kids and pray that for their safety.