By: Jolanda Jones
As a single mom of a Black man, business owner, lawyer, former city council member, US Track & Field member, and human rights activist, I was asked to be an expert panelist, on our local television affiliate, on raising black sons in light of Ferguson along with two black male fathers, both of whom are extremely successful business men. I was surprised that the segment began with the statement that Ferguson had caused parents to now have discussions with their sons about the police. I didn’t agree with that statement. Ferguson didn’t initiate a discussion. It added an exclamation point to a discussion I had had with my son too many times to count.
From the moment of my child’s birth I was afraid for him. I began explaining to him that he needed to be prepared for the day when, not if, the police would profile him. My goal in the lessons was to make sure he made it home alive. He hemmed and hawed about how I was talking too much about race; that he was a good kid; that he would never get caught up; that the police only mess with people who do stuff to deserve it. He always asked me to stop nagging him.
It wasn’t just my son I was afraid for and trying to warn. I have been giving free seminars in both English and Spanish, entitled “Know Your Rights When the Police Stop You”. After the lectures I handed out an accompanying postcard the size of an insurance card that is kept in your vehicle glove compartment or purse or wallet. It irritated the Houston Police Department so much that they unsuccessfully tried to get my law license taken away.
Then one evening my son and a high school classmate, both of whom graduated with honors and on the dean’s list from high school, got profiled by HPD. After work as they were entering my SUV, my son called me afraid and speaking quickly saying that a police car was rapidly approaching them in the parking lot with his lights and sirens flashing and ordering them out of the SUV. He was afraid, hadn’t done anything and didn’t know what to do. He was 18 years old, 5’11”, 145 pounds and leaving for college in less than a week. I was rapidly trying to remind him of what I had taught him all of his life and the phone went dead. I tried calling back too many times to count but the phone went to voicemail. I was frantic and felt helpless.
I later found out that the officer accosted and pulled a gun on my son and Shaun; had them spread eagle on my SUV accusing them of breaking into it eventhough my son had the key and no glass was broken. They both told the officer as much. He didn’t believe them. At some point the officer realized that my son was getting into his mom, the city council member’s SUV. He immediately jumped into his patrol car and got ghost like a roach does when you turn on the lights. There is not a doubt in my mind that had he not recognized me the officer would have given a case to both my son and Shaun.
I reported the injustice to the police chief and he said there was nothing they could do. My son didn’t know the officer’s name or badge number because the officer refused to give that information. The police department never even spoke with my son or Shaun. My son now understands all those lessons I taught him. He knows the police don’t protect and serve. He knows they profile, harass, brutalize and kill Black men. He knows it’s open season on Black men and boys. Now my son is 22, 6’4”, 200 pounds. I’m now even more fearful.
The other panelists had the same concerns for their sons. They each had stories of being harassed, profiled and wrongfully arrested on their own property by the police notwithstanding their success. We all just want our kids to come home alive. It’s not the ghetto or gang violence that we’re afraid of – it’s the police. No, Ferguson didn’t cause me to have the talk with my son. Ferguson just gave me one more example of why mother knows best and to please pay attention because it could be the difference between life and death.
The only way we have a chance to prevail in a swearing match with the police is for someone to have a camera phone rolling because as we can see with the Ferguson media coverage – they never believe us; they always believe the police even when they are lying through their teeth.