I decided to write this short thought to express something that I am sure many mothers can relate to. This is especially true as it pertains to mothers of young men of color. I know someone is reading this and has already taken a negative perspective, simply because I used the descriptive phrase, "young men of color." If terms like this offend you, I strongly urge you to STOP READING NOW, because this is going to get a little deep. I felt it heavy on my heart to write about my handsome, intelligent, witty, funny, protective ten-year-old son.
The other day, he and I, along with his other siblings, ages thirteen (13) and four (4) were laughing and talking in my room, as I face-timed my sister. During that time, my little sister and I exchanged notes about how many grey hairs we had on our heads; which has been a running joke since we are both in our mid to late thirties. Well, my son, being the mama's boy that he is, felt he needed to assure me that I am not old and that he did not see any grey hairs. I chuckled and explained to him that I appreciated his kind words, but it was okay that I was getting old.
Unwilling to accept that his mom felt like she is getting closer to 40 years old with each passing day, he says to me, "Mom, you're not old, and you're going to live for a very long time, even longer than me." Perplexed by his comment, I asked him to clarify what he meant. Before I let him answer, I explained that a mother is not supposed to bury her son and that it was supposed to be the other way around. To my heartbreak, he says, "Well mom, what if the police kill me? Then you will have to bury me first." I was in utter shock and felt a bit sick to my stomach to hear that come from my son's mouth. I understand that in his mind, he had the best intentions to attempt to make me feel better about getting old, but his comment had the opposite effect, due to the revelation I had about the events of this world and the negative impact it has imprinted on my children.
I am a big believer in the laws of attraction and that our words have power. As such, I told him to take it back and I openly rejected the comment. I explained to him why we will never invite that kind of energy into our lives, and I attempted to do my best to assure him that we will do all that is in our power to protect him from such an awful fate. As I write this, it is difficult to hold back the tears, in that my son, as witty and funny, and full of life as he is, has such a grim view of his own existence in this fucked up world. Excuse my language. I am writing for a place of raw emotion this time, and I just don't have it in me to censor myself right now.
The reason I titled this post, "A Mother's Fears" is due to the fact that many mothers across this nation have experienced the unimaginable pain of unjustly losing their sons to the dark and unflinching hand of wanton abuse of police authority. Again, if you can't handle any unfavorable comments about the preceding topic, I suggest you STOP READING NOW. It is hard for me because I do not believe that all officers are bad. I grew up in a home where my father was a detective, and he was a very honorable and just man. However, stories of abuse and police corruption were not lost on him either, as he explained many things that he witnessed and experienced serving the City of Los Angeles as an officer of the law.
My son's comment struck fear in me, in that he said it so carefree. Aside from that, this topic is also a sore spot for me because my husband and I do our best to shield our children from the suffering and struggle of this world. We do our best to prepare our children for what is out there, but never did we think that our son would suffer from the same fear and feelings of helplessness and vulnerability that we did growing up in communities that were subject to over-policing and violence. It goes to show that no matter the efforts of trying to prevent such a negative impact or influence on them, our children still feel the same fear and uneasy feelings associated with the thought of a potential encounter with police.
Both my husband, and I have been subject to unwarranted traffic stops, searches, weapons being drawn, handcuffs, and so forth, at the hands of law enforcement. All of which are things that I would never want for any of our children. Having experienced that very early in my life, I developed a fear of the police in my young age, and I was terrified to drive at one point in my life. I can't convey the anxiety and fear that I felt when I had to get behind the wheel to drive to and from my local college. I am thankful to have never experienced physical abuse or worse, and I attribute that to the divine protection of my ancestors.
However, my son, having not personally experienced or witnessed these things firsthand, still for some reason feels that it is normal and possible for him to be killed at the hands of a police officer. He said it so casually, and nonchalantly that it took my breath away. That was a wake-up call for me, and as I shared the story with my husband, one thing was made painstakingly clear: WE HAVE TO PROTECT OURS BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. No need to elaborate here. Just know that we will protect ours.
Anyway, after I caught my breath and attempted to compose my thoughts, I did my best to establish that it is not okay for this to happen to him, and to not let anyone or anything make him believe any different. I had to explain to him that his life matters more than anything and that he is meant for greatness, not fear and oppression. I found myself having "the talk" that most black parents have with their children on the "How to's on surviving a police encounter."
HOW TO SURVIVE A TRAFFIC STOP WHILE BLACK
For those that don't know, yes, that is a real thing, and yes, I had that talk with my children. In case you were wondering, and didn't know how to address this with your child/children, here are a few of the pointers I shared with my kids:
1) If an officer pulls you over, make sure that you pull into a well-lit area, never into a dark, dimly lit space. Your safety depends on it. Seek out a gas station or some other well-lit establishment, as they will likely have surveillance cameras and other people in the area. If you have to drive a little ways before you can reach that well-lit area, make sure to turn on your hazard lights and be sure to slow down below the speed limit. This will let them know that you intend to comply and that you are looking for a safe place to park.
2) Once you stop, keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times, and wait for them to reach your vehicle. Never make any sudden movements, and at any time when they ask you to provide your license and registration, move 1 hand from the steering wheel, very slowly, and explain that you are reaching for your registration in the glove box (the usual location). Slowly provide the documentation, and place your hand back on the steering wheel.
3) Wait patiently for them to return with your documentation. Do not attempt small talk, or exhibit any sign of frustration or annoyance. Just sit quietly, and wait. If at any point the officer is aggressive or irrational, you have the right to ask for their supervisor to come to the scene. Only do this if you feel that the situation is getting out of control. They are required by law to have a supervisor on the scene if asked.
4) NEVER ARGUE WITH AN OFFICER. NEVER. It does not matter how wrong they may be, or how unfair you believe you are being treated. Make sure that you live so that you can fight another day. These matters are legal matters and can always be taken care of in a Court of Law, at a later date. Never try to get justice on the spot, during a traffic stop. This is because you just never know who is pulling you over, and your life might depend on it.
I know there is no real guarantee that any of this will work, especially with the blatant disregard for human life that we have become accustomed to. My only hope is for my children to live long, healthy, happy, and productive lives. I want them to see the world, and not be confined to one country and one culture. I welcome nothing but success and joy and love to fill their futures. And I ward off any ill will, evil intentions, or harm that even thinks it can penetrate the shield of protection surrounding them. I know there are many who have lost their children to horrible atrocities that I could never imagine or even fathom. To them, I send my love, my strength, and support, in hopes that they may carry on, one day at a time.
Though I write this from a place of raw, unfiltered emotion, I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to allow my children to live in fear, and I refuse to be afraid ever again.
This blog was written by Pamala Brooks, a mother, wife, and mompreneur that specialized in all things paralegal-related. I am also a notary public for the state of Nevada.
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