A Father & Son Speak
Do all black men fear the police?
Do they support the Black Lives Matter Movement?
Do they feel pressure to address today’s issues?
What lessons were they taught as young black men?
How do they succeed being black men?
How do pre-teen black males see the world today?
I wanted to know.
So I reached out to a South Carolina father and son for answers.
Let’s learn what a 40-year-old black man and his 12-year-old son feel about recent events including the George Floyd killing, Black Lives Matter Movement, and the anti-police sentiment.
Jason and Jessica, Summerville, South Carolina, have been married for 19 years and have three children. One daughter is in college. The other will be a senior in high school. Their 12-year-old son will enter seventh grade in the fall.
Jason, the youngest of three boys, served in the U.S. Army (Watertown, New York and Honolulu, Hawaii). His parents both proudly served in the military. So, he’s also lived in Guam and attended primary school in California and Nevada.
Today he’s a Government Contracting Terminal Manager for bulk storage and distribution.
Lessons Taught by Parents
Q: Did your parents speak to you in your youth about the realities of being a black man?
A: Yes, at a young age, they spoke to us about what it meant to be a young black man but mostly about what it meant to be a young man period.
- A man provides for his family. He protects them and loves them. He teaches his family how to navigate through life by setting the standard.
- Never hit a woman.
- Treat people as you’d want to be treated.
- Always repay your debts.
- Be a man of your word. [My Mom’s most important lesson.]
- Dream big, but set goals that are attainable.
- Be prepared.
- Work twice as hard because nothing will be given to you.
- Respect your elders. Many people have made sacrifices for you to be able to live in the way you do.
- Honor your parents and family members. We are all we have.
- Respect the country even though it has not always respected us as black people.
- Rise above! There is no limit to what you can accomplish in life.
Q: Those are great lessons on life. How have you practiced them?
A: Yes, these are just some of the gems passed on by my parents to us as children. These values became gospel. I still live by these guidelines today. It helps when my core beliefs were reinforced by my military experience.
Q: Who did you watch or who was your role model as a kid?
A: Again, I am extremely fortunate to have a strong married mother and father in my life. Race was never a big issue in our home. We were raised in a manner and mindset to believe we will succeed in life based on the work and education we accomplished.
The fact that we are a black family was not going to be an excuse for failing or any failure we encountered.
Being black is not a crutch or a setback.
This was the overall mindset and tone in our home while I was young.
There were struggles but they did not define us.
Q: Then as a child did you ever feel you were different from others?
A: I do recall one moment in a Nevada elementary school where a bully called me a “nigger.” When I reported it to the yard monitor, she said, “that’s okay sugar, that’s what you are.” My Mom had my back and went to the school to “fix” this.
She also reassured me that I was not what I was called. She made sure I knew I was special and smart and that my skin color was beautiful and that I was beautiful.
Fear the Police
Q: As a child, were you taught to fear the police?
A: No. I was not taught that. Instead, I was taught police were a group of humans capable of making mistakes, being wrong and maybe even being corrupt.
Q: How do you feel about the George Floyd murder and the killing of many other black people in recent times?
A: The outrage for me would be the same no matter the victim’s race. Wrong is wrong. Evil is evil. Mr. Floyd’s murder was senseless. It’s a true testament of evil and one man imposing his will over another. The fact that Mr. Floyd was black intensified the officer’s wrongdoing.
Q: What is your overall opinion about police today?
A: I believe there are good and bad cops everywhere. I just hope there are more good than bad.
Q: What is your overall opinion on the “Black Lives Matter” movement?
A: I believe there is cause for a movement. At the same time, coining a phrase such as “Black Lives Matter” is a blanket statement, which should go without saying. I have mixed emotions on the subject. I’m wary of groups and movements that ‘represent’ me without my influence or my approval. If you say “Black Lives Matter” and I’m black does that already affiliate me with the movement? Right or wrong, I’m lumped in with whatever this movement is standing for. And, if I don’t approve, am I part of the problem?
The Movement will not allow one to stand on the fence or be silent on the subject. This is what makes it so uncomfortable for a lot of people.
Conversations are being had that normally wouldn’t happen. To me, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s only bad when either side can’t handle the hard truths coming from a hard conversation.
Q: Have you joined any protest rallies?
A: No. I’ve done Black Out Dates on Facebook to show my support for black owned businesses. I believe the only way to truly have freedom is to be economically independent by generating generational wealth and to vote.
Teaching White People
Q: How do you react to people saying, “I don’t see color.” Or, “I’m color blind” as a way to prove they aren’t racist?
A: I do see color. I see things for what they are and people for who they are. If you show me who you are, I tend to believe you and that can’t be changed or walked back.
Q: How do you describe or explain racism?
A: Simply put, it’s purely hate and ignorance.
Q: Let’s address the discomfort of white people during these times. Many don’t even know how to refer to you. Are you Black, Afro-American, Brown, a person of color? And, what is your best advice for whites interacting with blacks?
A: Calling me black is fine. I know I’m American and I fought for this country. I should just be American, but if there must be a label on behalf of my skin color, then let’s go with black.
Now, how to address so many uncomfortable white people interacting with blacks whom they’ve interacted with for years. I’d say just be a decent human being.
Respect the fact that awful things have happened to many groups of people and continue to happen today. I encourage openly listening to hardships explained by many people of color.
Try hard to be empathetic and place yourself in their shoes, without your current resources.
It’s impossible but try anyway.
Q: You’re given a magic wand. What’s your one wish for race relations in the USA today?
A: I’d definitely wish for everyone to have the opportunity for economic growth with no regard to skin color or social background.
Raising a Black Son
Q: Nice. Let’s talk about raising your 12-year-old son in today’s culture. Do you fear for his life?
A: No. Not in the sense that he will do something wrong. I fear he could find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, possibly with the wrong people.
Q: What fears do you think your son has?
A: I think he fears disappointing his parents. It’s not because he’s a young black man or anything to do with race. He wants to be successful and make something of his life.
Q: Describe an ideal world for your son.
A: It would be one allowing him to follow his dreams and encouraging his ambitions without breaking his will. It’d uplift and celebrate his blackness, not just tolerate the fact that he is not in the current majority. I hope he has the chance to showcase his greatness.
The Son Speaks
Then Jason’s 12-year-old son was asked:
Q: Are you afraid of being a young black man in South Carolina?
A: Yes! Because I don’t know how my future will be and if my children will be safe in today’s society.
Q: How can your Dad make you more comfortable about being a young black man?
A: Let me know not everyone in the world is racist against black people.
Q: What is the most important lesson your Dad has taught you so far?
A: Easy. Stay focused in school and pay attention in class.
Q: If a police officer stopped you, how would you feel?
A: I wouldn’t feel threatened. I know if I didn’t do anything wrong, no harm would come to me.
Q: What words would you put on the end of this sentence: I can’t wait for…
A: A new dirt bike and for COVID to be over.
Passing on Lessons Learned
Q: Your son shared the most important lesson you’ve taught him. What other lessons are you trying to teach?
A: I want to be clear that these lessons are the same for my daughters and my son. Okay?
- You must work hard for what you want out of life. It can be twice as hard for you, if you let it.
- Be smart. Make good choices.
- Education is key. It can never be taken away from you.
- Lead by example. Do what is right even when no one is looking.
- Do the work you have to do now so you can do what you want later. Ownership is everything.
- Never miss an opportunity to be more than what others expect you to be. Some may judge you based on the color of your skin. Be better than what is expected of you. I expect greatness.
- This country has many advantages and opportunities but nothing is free. We do not take handouts, nor do we give them.
- Be careful who you surround yourself with. You could become a target unwillingly. Perception is everything. Do not ever put yourself in a position where you are somebody’s fall guy.
Parents Made All the Difference
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Yes, I’m acutely aware that having both parents present in my life and traveling and seeing different parts of the world as a child were important factors in my young life and in shaping the man I am today.
I know many have not had the same opportunity.
The environment in which I grew up kept me close enough to see what could happen if I wasn’t careful and far enough to be isolated.
In the end, my parents made all the difference.
Share this story with others.
Let them learn to be great examples as parents and decent human beings.
©July 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.
Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.