Being a Black boy in Winston-Salem North Carolina was not scary. We didn’t wake up each morning afraid and fearful.
We went to school, came home and did our homework each evening. That routine stayed with boys and girls in my neighborhood until we graduated from high school. The men and women in our community were hardworking and ethical. They wanted us to be better than them.
Education was a top priority in East Winston. We didn’t dare miss school. Hooky wasn’t in our plans. While we did our share of talking, missing school was never a serious point of discussion. The penalty for missing school was way too high for us. It meant having a woodshed experience (spanking) and total embarrassment. I am not sure what was worse as I never had to experience it. If I had to guess, it would have been the neighborhood embarrassment. Walking up and down Rich Avenue, Temple Avenue and Cameron Avenue would not have been fun.
We as Black boys didn’t have encounters with the police. We saw them, and they saw us. Don’t take that statement as combative because it wasn’t meant to be. The police existed in our community to protect and to serve. The confusion in our community was minimal. If I can remember, the police came around when some adult had too much to drink or to break up an argument that had gotten out of hand.
When I went to college, I can’t recall the police coming to our campus to break up disturbances. However, they were at special events such as football and basketball games.
Upon reflection now, I can’t really say when I started to fear for my life as a Black man. Maybe it was the time I played in a tennis tournament in Pennsylvania and was surrounded by three police cars because I made an illegal turn. Or maybe it was the time when I was in graduate school and was taken into custody because of mistaken identity.
Unfortunately, a lot of Black men my age had confrontations with the police. I would opine that most of us kept our cool, so nothing more than fear was present. Has it gotten worse for young Black men? I would like to say no but I must say yes! Years ago, Black men didn’t leave their homes fearing for their lives. They went to work and afterwards came home. Now there is some apprehension when Black men leave their homes in the morning.
While some may disagree with this statement, my advice is to be very careful when you are in the public square. This is for young and old alike. Recently, I was in a mall and was at a kiosk. The employee followed me around and watched my every move.
The president says these are scary times for young men. However, I would take it a step further and say these are very dangerous times for young Black men. Sometimes you don’t have to leave your house.
Recently, Botham Shem Jean was in his apartment in Dallas and was killed by a Dallas police officer. He was in his own house and ends up dead. Who can we trust with our lives? Yes, Mr. President, these are scary times for young men and even scarier times if you look like me.