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After Eric Garner, what am I supposed to tell my son?

In the wake of the decision to not indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, what am I supposed to tell my son?

Like many Americans, I am outraged at the lack of an indictment for the killing of Eric Garner. These days, it seems the life of a black American male isn’t worth much. And it’s hard to get justice for black males who’ve been violated by the police.

As I think about my 23-month-old twin son, Thaddeus, I am furious and teary-eyed because I have no idea what the fuck I’m supposed to tell him about how to conduct himself and avoid trouble with the police when he grows up.

20 Years later, how much has really changed?

In April, 1992 I was a senior at the all-male, historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Morehouse is the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 1992 was also when the Rodney King verdict was announced and the Los Angeles riots occurred. Naturally, students were upset and we marched and demonstrated peacefully. The police came on campus, which was fine, but then all hell broke loose when an officer pushed a female student without cause. The next thing I knew helicopters were flying over the campus and the police were firing tear gas at us.

Above is a photo from that day. Those are all students with their “hands up.”

After the Rodney King verdict and our clash with the police, I remember thinking it was hard for a black American male to get justice in America and be treated fairly.

Flash forward three months, after I graduated from Morehouse College with honors, and I’m home in Brooklyn, New York to visit my family before starting my full-time job as a new member of the audit staff of the C.P.A. firm Deloitte & Touche.

I was driving in my new car with my brother and his best friend when a police car passed in the opposite direction. In the rear-view mirror I saw the police make a U-turn. I knew it was going to be trouble.

I wasn’t speeding or breaking any laws, but the cops pulled us over anyway. They made each one of us get out of the car and frisked us. Then one officer pulled his spare revolver from under the back seat of my car and said, “What have we here?” as if the gun were mine.

I was livid.

I filed a complaint with the local police precinct, but of course, nothing happened.

What do I tell my son?

When I heard the Eric Garner decision today, it reminded me of my experiences 20 years ago. It made me cry because the thought of my son growing up in this America, where the life of a black male is seemingly worth less than the lives of other American males, and the police can harass, abuse and kill black males with impunity is too much to bear.

I feel completely powerless and I have no idea what to do.

So maybe you, the reader, have some advice for me.

What do I tell my son about how to conduct himself as a young man to not be harassed by the police?

What do I tell my son about how to not get beaten by the police?

What do I tell my son to make sure he’s not killed by the police for no good reason?

WTF am I supposed to tell my son?

My favorite picture of my son, Thaddeus, and me.

Photo Credit: Louis Pinckney

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