Ferguson and Jake


Today, I'm glad my son is White.


That’s a phrase I never thought I’d write. In part, that’s because I identify so much with Black culture and Black history. It’s also in part because, as a Black man, raising a White boy is extremely complicated.


Please understand, life at home is as simple as can be expected with a teenager. I’m incredibly fortunate that Jake is a wonderful young man. But life out in the world is filled with constant reminders that our family is jarring to others.


We’re jarring to servers who felt they needed to ask ‘everything on one check?’ even when Jake was in elementary school. We’re jarring at the bank when the teller needs ‘help from a manager’ to authorize Jake cashing a birthday check from a grandparent. We’ve been jarring at the mall, convenience store, park or any of the other dozen times I wondered if someone were ready to put out an Amber alert, fearing for Jake’s safety because he was with me. We were jarring the time I got pulled over and very aggressively harassed because a cop saw Jake sitting in my backseat while we drove through a White neighborhood.  Jake’s Whiteness has been a consistent hassle.


In one important respect though, Jake’s Whiteness has been a real blessing: I've never given him THE TALK. Of course we've had the sex talk because I’m the responsible dad of a teen. But we've never had the cop talk. Some of you know about the cop talk. That’s the one when young people of color learn the dos and don’ts of interacting with the police. They learn what kinds of behaviors to change, which places should be avoided and what poses to assume. My son doesn’t need to know any of that. If anything, I would say that Jake is wary of the police because of how they've treated me but he doesn't live in any real fear of the cops. And I'm so glad he doesn't have to.


Jake will get the automatic benefit of the doubt when it comes to cops. That reality makes a huge difference in my life and the last few days in Ferguson has made that more clear than ever. His inherent (wait for it…) White privilege means that when I'm worried for my son’s safety it's about driving or alcohol or sex. At root, I worry about Jake having a problem based on something of his own doing, having trouble because of a choice he makes. I worry just because he’s my kid.  


But I don’t have to worry about Jake being in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong skin. I don’t have to worry that he’ll be Mike Brown or Amadou Diallo or Ezell Ford or Eric Garner or Sean Bell or any of the murdered others. I don’t have to worry that someone with a badge might decide to kill my son.


Today, I'm glad my son is White.



© Gayle Force Press 2014






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