Driving While Black

Something very minor happened last week. Something so insignificant that most of you would not even consider it a blimp on your radar scan of life.

My sons who are my pride and joy!
My sons who are my pride and joy!

My oldest son called and told me he would be driving from Atlanta to Charlotte for his job which would involve an overnight stay and returning the next day. No big deal right? Well for most of my friends, who are not people of color, it was not a big deal. But for me, my heart immediately dropped and I began to go into fear mode.

For you see, I am no longer understanding living in America without living in fear and some anxiety. As a mother, I fear the normal things like, an accident, car trouble or even a simple flat tire and needing roadside assistance. But as a mother of African-American sons, I fear traffic stops for my adult sons. I wonder, is the officer having a good day or a bad day? Does he feel threatened by sons? Do my sons remember my instructions about keeping your hands where they can be seen, looking the officer in the eye, answering respectfully and not making any sudden gestures? I gave them this talk many, many years ago, as teens, and have reminded them over and over. But each time they get behind the wheel, my heart is troubled. It has been over 20 years since they started driving. And the fear is not only as fresh, but somewhat intensified in view of recent events.  And I know for a fact, there are too many African-American parents out here sharing these same fears.

ATL at night







With the increased incidents of unarmed individuals being killed during traffic stops, it has left me almost paralytic in my fear for my sons. Now I understand, there are many, many good officers merely doing their job, yet the few that have abused their authority or reacted in reactionary fear, absolutely frighten me for my sons’ safety. So I was only too happy to talk to my son almost 2 hours on his trip to Charlotte and likewise 2 hours on his way back. It burdened my heart when he told me he had changed to casual shorts and t-shirt for his drive home, after his meeting. I immediately thought, if stopped, how will the officer judge him? Will he see the same professional who was previously wearing a collared shirt or now make an assumption for the worse?   I hate it!!! I hate having this fear. I hate worrying. I hate that I know things can escalate and outcomes can be very deadly from assumptions.  I did not share my fears with my son. But I hated when our conversation ended, because I don’t know what I could have done long distance to ensure his continued safety.





I do know when I hung up, I wondered….is he ok? And an additional 3 hours was a long time to wonder! When he called to let me   know he arrived both ways, all I could say was “Thank-you Jesus for protecting my son!”

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