Since today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I thought it would be appropriate to give some advice to my black son. Advice on how to live a long life in a hostile nation.
Problem is I don’t have a black son. Both my son and daughter are white. As is my wife. And we have a long history of ancestors who were also white. Quite a coincidence. Being white, there was never the necessity of having this little talk with him or her. But I digress.
To my black son or grandson. First, I will make some assumptions about you, most of which are not true.
You live in poverty (actually 73% of African Americans do not live in poverty, but the percentage IS higher for children and young adults) http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceethnicity/
Your parents do not own their own home (55% do not, but 45% do). http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0883976.html
You will be arrested for a violent crime this year . (about 1/2 of 1% of black youths will be arrested for a violent offense, so 99.5% of black youths will NOT be arrested for a violent crime) http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/JAR_Display.asp?ID=qa05261
You are most likely a high school “drop out” . (The drop out rate for African American males is approximately 7%, so 93% are NOT drop outs) http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16
Enough of statistics. And stereotypes. I want you to live a long and happy life. Keep in mind the following.
First of all you have rights. The right to free speech. To drive. To assembly. To individuality. To be young. And to be stupid at times. To walk down the street. To carry a gun in some states. To use a cell phone.
My Rules for my black son. Listen carefully:
1. Take that last paragraph about your rights and forget it. Assume , instead, that you have no rights. Accept reality. Act like you have no rights. You will live longer.
2.If the police stop you in your car or walking be respectful. Don’t argue. Be polite. “Yes, officer. No,officer”. If you see the cops driving around in your neighborhood wave and smile.
3.Sew your pockets shut. So you cannot possibly reach inside them. Don’t carry a cell phone. Or comb. Or knife. Or anything.
4.Don’t be out after dark. If you are a friend’s house, call home and tell ma and pa that you are sleeping over. Do the same for your friends when they are visiting you at night. Don’t be out after dark.
5.Don’t go to places where you know drug dealers hang out. If drug dealers show up where you are hanging out, go home. Now.
6.If you are arrested for some reason say nothing. Nothing. If you are put in a cell do not talk to your cellmate. Be polite and ask for a lawyer. Say nothing.
7.Don’t wear bling. Don’t wear a hoodie. Don’t wear your cap backwards. Don’t argue with anyone about anything. Swallow your pride. Often. Regularly.
8.Act like you are a Jew in Nazi Germany. Pretend you are a foreigner with no rights.
Should you have to follow these rules? No. But in reality these rules will give you a much better chance of making it to adulthood than the Bill of Rights. Or the Voting Rights Act. Or any other legal protections. Sorry, my black son, but that is reality.
As MLK, Jr hoped, someday you WILL be judged by the content of your character and not by the color of your skin. But January 18, 2016 in America is not yet that day.