As a black man raising two multiracial girls, I strive to teach them to be confident and strong. But what happens when Daddy isn’t always confident and strong? I’m a public speaker, fatherhood activist, published author and television personality — and I’ve never been in trouble with the law. However, the harsh reality is if I’m ever stopped by the police for any reason, I will experience an inordinate amount of fear. Fear that I could be harmed, beaten or killed.
“Stop with the hyperbole,” people say.
“I’m tired of black people pulling out the race card all of the time,” people say.
“Here’s an idea — don’t break the law and you won’t have any trouble with the police,” people say.
Such simple responses to a multifaceted issue just don’t work. Here’s a fact: as a black man, I’m automatically viewed as a threat due to my skin color. Sometimes I wish I could walk into a nice boutique wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt, but I know I’ll be followed — so I break out the slacks, collared shirt and prescription eye glasses and suddenly, I’m left alone. Sometimes I find myself singing Frozen songs if I’m passing someone on the sidewalk in an effort to say, “Hey, I have kids. I’m not a threat to you.” I also wish I wouldn’t completely tense up when a police officer walks or drives by me.
It all becomes completely exhausting and quite honestly — it’s really difficult (but not impossible) to understand and empathize unless you’ve lived it yourself.
Are all cops bad? Of course not. Just like all black men aren’t thugs and criminals. Although my daughters are young (4 and 2 years old), I plan on teaching them that there are some people who will think Daddy is a bad man just because his skin color is darker than theirs. Instead of being angry about it, I’ll also teach them to love and respect everyone. I’ll teach them that society tends to focus on our differences, but we should try focusing on our similarities. I will teach them that it doesn’t matter if someone is black or white, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Muslim, etc. — the only thing that matters is what’s in their hearts. Oftentimes, once we dig past the surface-level differences, we’ll find that most of us have the same hopes, dreams and fears.
Speaking of hopes, dreams and fears — I hope and dream that my girls will grow up in a more tolerant and accepting world than the one we live in now. I fear that if we continue to focus on our differences instead of our similarities, the problem will only become worse. We can do better. The lives of our children hangs in the balance.