A Grandfather’s Advice to His Black Teen Grandson

A Grandfather’s Advice to His Black Teen Grandson May 26, 2015

Dear Beloved Grandson,

Be afraid. Be very afraid. You shouldn’t have to be, but in today’s America you need to be constantly on your guard.

Or maybe “afraid” isn’t the right word. Be vigilant and very careful. Especially around police.

Wait. Don’t hate police; not all of them are your enemies. But given the plethora of police attacks, using deadly force, on black boys and men, be vigilant around them. And that means be vigilant whenever you are out in public.

I recently gave you a cell phone with my name and phone number on speed dial. If a policeman pulls you over when you are in a car or confronts you anywhere, if possible and safe, take out the cell phone and contact me. Tell me very briefly about the situation and your location. If possible tell me the policeman’s badge number. Only do this after you determine the policeman is not an immediate threat to your life or safety. (See below for instructions on what to do first.)

Be sure not to have illegal drugs on your person or in a car where you are riding or in a house where you are visiting (to say nothing of your own pad when you have your own). Don’t be around illegal drugs or people who might have them.

Treat law enforcement officers respectfully even if, inside, you believe they are in the wrong. Even if they are totally wrong; it’s in your best interest to be respectful. Your life may depend on it.

Never play in public (outside the confines of your own home) with anything that looks like a weapon–even a toy gun with an orange “cap” on the end of the barrel.

In public places never wear your pants down below your waist where your underwear shows above them. Never wear a “hoodie.”

Never run from a policeman, no matter what. If confronted by a policeman for any reason or no reason, immediately fall down flat and put your hands over your head. Never reach into your pocket; never speak angrily or with a disrespectful tone.

Remember that cell phone with my name and number on speed dial? Always carry it with you when you leave home. Only pull it out AFTER you determine your life is not on the line. Don’t pull it out immediately when a police officer approaches you. Do the above first and only take out the cell phone when the officer knows it’s not a weapon.

You should not have to be this vigilant around or obsequious to law enforcement, but, for my sake, if not for your own, please be vigilant and obsequious. I love you and don’t want anything bad to happen to you.

Just as important as all of that is this: Don’t allow this awful situation to make you bitter or resentful. Maintain your inner beauty that matches your outward beauty. Think of my advice and instructions as LIKE those a grandfather would give a grandson who lives in a wilderness area where there are bears. Bears would not be his enemies and being a certain way around them should not make him hate them or ruin his life. Don’t let your need to be vigilent and even obsequious toward law enforcement damage your personality. Rise above it; don’t let the unfairness of it plant a seed of bitterness or hate in your heart.

Your loving grandfather.

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