Even before the ultrasound revealed it, I knew I was having a boy. Nothing in this world could have made me happier. I had always wanted a boy and before the end of July 1995, I would give birth to my only child, Will. He is indeed the love, light and joy of my life, but the fear I have for his wellbeing is staggering.
Will had spent part of last holiday season in Dallas with some friends and visiting his daughter, and when it was time for him to come home, I wanted him off the road early. All his life, he has moved at his own pace, so the fact that I had to call him 30 times that day telling him to get moving meant little.
My fear didn’t only involve the fact that he would be traveling after dark; my fear was that he would be traveling while dark. He would be driving while black to be exact, which is one of the many things that the black community has contended will get you beaten or killed.
As I said, he left late; and being young and foolish, he paid no mind to the speedometer. He was clocked traveling 93 mph in Hallsville, TX. He should have been stopped. I would not know about the stop until he made it home.
When he finally presented me with the ticket, the first words out of his mouth were not, “I’m sorry, Mom,” they were, “Mama, I was so scared.”
He said the officer was very nice to him, but he had made Will sit in the back of the squad car while he ran Will’s info. He said the officer asked him where he played football — he’s a big kid so it was obvious he plays football — and when he found out that Will had played for Allen, he told him how proud he was of the team.
Will, on the other hand, was terrified he would get shot. He said the entire time he was in the back of that car, his only thought was how he would get out if things went bad.
He said, “Mama, he would have had to shoot me in the back because I wasn’t going to let him do anything to me.”
Will remained respectful and I am grateful for that, but I still shudder when I think of my child in the back of that squad car. I know that it could have easily become a situation that would have garnered national attention.
What I tell my son
I’ve taught my son to stand up for himself. I’ve taught him to pick his arguments carefully and to defend himself relentlessly. I’ve taught him to be respectful but truthful. The thing is, I’ve had to revise some of that advice. I want him to stand up for and defend himself, but I know for a fact that in the face of a bad cop, doing either of those things will get him killed. Plain and simple, he would die. It’s difficult for me to insist that he maintain self-respect when an action to that regard may be considered disrespectful by a rogue cop.
I want my son to graduate from college. I want him to flourish in his career. I want more grandchildren. I tell my son to stay compliant if he’s ever caught in a situation where his life may be in danger with law enforcement, because it will be easier for me to hire an attorney to defend him than it will be to choose a casket to bury him in. I don’t know what else to tell him. I remain in deep, unceasing prayer for him, but I don’t know what else to tell him.