By Lester E. Flax
There comes a time when all parents of a black child in America must face an unfair reality and skillfully tell our child or children that we are not all equal, that we are not all the same, despite the noble sentiments in the preamble to the constitution. Dubbed, “the talk,” we parents of black children have to tell our children and remind them often, how to interact with the police and stay alive. We reel in agony every time they leave home, especially when they start driving, and can exhale only when they arrive back home alive.
At one time the emphasis was placed with on male children. Seeing a young female student tased by Atlanta cops while in a car driven by her boyfriend, not having committed any crime, curfew or not, I realised how skilled our children have to be to diffuse all interactions with police officers regardless of their sex.
Some black people won’t ever call the police when a crime has been committed, even if our lives are threatened, even if we saw the crime, because more often than not, the cops will assume that we’re the perpetrators. Even after explaining where the threat or crime originated, they’ll interrogate us as though WE are criminals. I know, it happened to me! Better to mind your business and don’t see what you see, or call anonymously.
Yesterday, during the social media blackout, I saw two people trying desperately to scare away looters attacking a small business, flag down the police. Immediately the two were in handcuffs, and if not for some media people who told the police that THEY were the model citizens that were protecting the business, that black couple would have been hauled off to jail. That’s a day in the life of many people of colour in this America.
I make sure I drive the posted speed limit, no matter the occasion. I try to always leave early enough to avoid speeding, because I hope to avoid any interaction with the police. In this time of upheaval, when a diversity of Americans are fed up with the same attitude that killed another black man, George Floyd, angry or hopeful, reflecting on that preamble may be instructive to all of us. What does it really mean? Does it include me and my family? It should, but does it? The preamble was written in 1787. Missouri was admitted to the union in 1820 as a slave state in the Missouri compromise. Surely, the author, Gouverneur Morris, a politician from New York, crafted those words in the Constitutional Convention, at a time when men and women of colour were regarded as property with no rights. He knew that some Americans were viewed as less than human, legally. Alas, sometimes it feels like authority still reverts to that view, after all these years of reinterpreting the constitution that once bolstered such folly.
“Preamble: We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Has anything much changed since 1969? Or 1959. . . 1949? It must have, hasn’t it? It has. Teach your children well, and early. Respect the officer, no back-chat, answer ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir,’ or don’t answer at all. Follow instructions, keep your hands visible, no sharp movements, inform the officer where you have to reach to get your driver’s license and registration. Your child might survive. At all costs, avoid them. Thoughts and views expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Observer NewsCo, its management or staff.