I’m Not Dangerous:: The Reality of Being a Black Dad in America

I am a black dad in America. I’ve read all your messages and texts these last few weeks and I’m finally ready to share my story. I have not shared yet because frankly it was way too sensitive for me. I’ve carried this burden on my heart for 40 years now. Held this pain in and used I as fuel to make something positive out of my life.

I’m Not Dangerous:: The Reality of Being a Black Dad in America

Dear World,

I have a question.

If you can’t see the blatant discrimination that me and so many others face, then what change do you think will come? For every action is a reaction. Positive or not, it’s a reaction!

I have never even gotten a ticket in my life. Never been in any legal trouble. And don’t plan to. I am a black business owner in the same town I grew up in {dream come true}. I don’t want you to use my business because I’m black.

But I don’t want to be disqualified from serving you because I’m black. People ask me at the schools and business around town here why I mentor these young kids and young adults. It’s because I want little black boys and girls to know that, yes, one day you too can be much more than an athlete or a musician.

That you can own a home in a nice neighborhood where we all know each other. I have spent my entire life fighting to be seen as just equal to you. That’s all I ever wanted. Sure, I’ve been harassed by the police too many times to count. Hell, I was called the N word numerous times by many of you reading this post in middle and high school. I was never allowed in your homes. Never invited over for dinner or invited to the birthday parties I’d hear about Monday at school.

The only positive things I ever heard from most was that I was a great athlete. And that I played a hell of a game and would we win district this year! But I am so much more than that.

I still remember each and every one of you and what you put me through. It’s still fresh in my mind and I’ll never shake it. I was always the bigger man and never retaliated because I was taught the better way to fight back was with my mind and not my fists.

So I’m floored by so many of you who have called me and instant messaged me to apologize for how you treated me growing up. I appreciate the gestures. But I don’t want any more apologies coming my way. Change things with your own kids so they don’t permanently scar a fellow classmate with their words or actions. That’s what I want.

Call in that person of color for a job interview if they are qualified. Don’t disqualify them because you can’t say their name on the job application.

I want you all to know this. I was raised by a proud, educated, strong and beautiful black mother and father. My father prepared me at the age of 7 to maneuver gracefully, tactfully, and quietly in your world so I could have a chance at the American Dream. I never really felt I had a place in this world to call my own. I still don’t to this day.

My Story

I made the place I’m in as comfortable as I could. And I’m blessed with a great life. Better than I ever dreamed imaginable. So many times, people don’t realize what a normal day is like for us. So, here is just one of hundreds of times I can share with you how racism has affected my life. And changed the way I do things daily that you wouldn’t think twice about.

Two years ago, while sitting at the bus stop waiting on my daughters’ bus to arrive in my own neighborhood… An older white gentleman walked out of his house and immediately began taking pictures of me and my truck and license plate. Normally my wife who is white picks up the kids every day. I am blessed enough financially to be one of the lucky husbands who has a wife who can stay home.

But that day I was able to leave work early and I wanted to surprise my daughters as they came home from school and go get snow cones with their daddy. But little did I know, the world had different plans for us. He said to me as he came up to my window that “I looked suspicious” I had my 6-year-old with me {she’s 8 now} in the truck with me at the time and she couldn’t understand what was happening.

It’s not like it was midnight. It was 3:44 in the afternoon and other parents in their cars were parked all along the street just like me. But there are not a lot of people that look like me in my neighborhood. My 6-year-old daughter could not grasp yet why I was yelling for her to “please listen to Daddy and lay down and be silent.”

Moments before all of this we were just laughing and playing I Spy! Which is a game many fathers play with their kids and it is not considered suspicious. It hurt my heart and I had to think fast when he approached my driver window showing me he was carrying a weapon. He never went for the weapon, but he made damn sure I knew he had one. This frail old man felt empowered with that gun and a cell phone.

I was just focused on my baby girl. At that moment I made my 6 year old daughter lay on the floor board behind me cause I thought “Okay, when he pulls his gun and shoots me, the bullets will go through me and hit the passenger side front or back seat and not my driver side floor board in the back,” thus saving her life. I wanted to allow her a chance to fight in court for her Daddy because I was killed for sitting while black in my own neighborhood of 15 plus years at the BUS STOP!

Now I was tempted to get out of my truck and confront him for approaching me on a public street showing a weapon. I, too, have a LTC. But in that moment, I heard my sweet fathers voice and thought of the talk my dad gave me at 7 and I used that information to deescalate the situation.

You see I knew at that moment I’d be the “threat” if I got out of the truck and he could very well murder me out of fear. This is my daily reality. People being genuinely afraid I’m there to hurt them or commit a crime.

The Things I Cannot Do Because I’m Black

Here are a few things I can’t do like you.

1. I can’t arrive at meetings early or security is called because I’m sitting by myself and that looks suspicious.

2. If a client is running late to our meeting at their home, I’ll go away and drive around till they arrive. You see I can’t sit in front of their house because the police always get called on me.

3. I can’t take the dog out to use the bathroom while staying in a hotel without my white wife because I’m terrified someone will call the police saying I look suspicious.

4. I can’t have a civil disagreement with someone in public. It is a lose, lose for me cause the police get called.

5. I can’t shop for a prom dress with my daughter. Because I am followed around the store in fear, I’m there to steal

6. I can’t withdraw money quickly from the bank because the amount is sometimes more than most have to withdraw.

I’m a 6’0, 340lb black man with a LTC and I take my white wife everywhere for MY own protection. Let that sink in for a moment. I could go on and on about what hideous things I’ve been through and that has been done to my daughters.

It’s not a funny Facebook meme. This is living and breathing real life experiences for many people I know.

Why I Give Back Despite the Racism

Many of you have been so supportive over the years. But I have mentored so many young men and they begged me because of my platform in the community to speak out. I can lose my life out here simply for being black and driving around in my shiny new pick-up truck. Because they don’t think I should have it because it costs a lot of money and it must be stolen.

Now I will scream from the rafters that not all of the police I’ve met treat me this way. Some of my closest and dearest friends are FBI, police, and government officials. And when I tell them to be careful, they look at me crazy and say, “No you be careful”, because they do understand what I’m up against.

I love my community and have donated thousands of dollars to schools and churches and other youth organizations so everyone can have an equal opportunity. So, the poor kids in the poor underfunded schools can have laptops, pencils, jerseys, meals, and books. It all starts with the education system.

Giving My Daughter The Talk

So, after this happened that night, I realized as a black dad, it was time for us to have the talk. The same talk I got from my father at 7 years old, I gave to my daughter at 6 years old that night. As a parent of black children, you have to realize when we need to cut their childhoods short. Because one wrong move or decision could mean jail or death. Lose your temper, even if you’re the victim and you could be hurt. Or worse.

Our children’s innocence is marked with sadness and hard truths most adults couldn’t even comprehend. Okay, so here it goes. This is the talk I had with all my daughters. I’m pretty confident 100% of my black friends and family had this same talk with their own kids. Forgive me now as I’m crying my eyes out as I write this because it so much harder to read after it’s written, and you see the words on the screen.

1.You are only cute to us but to others they see a black girl who is up to no good. So be careful where you go and know your surroundings at all times! We can’t go everywhere we want to without dirty looks or sighs. So stay close to the house and never play with toy guns.

2.  You have 2 strikes against you already being a black female. You could be taken to jail or killed at any moment. So be mindful of the company you keep. Because the 13th amendment was made to keep us as slaves. (If you don’t know what this means, please google the 13th amendment)

3. NEVER EVER RUN FROM THE POLICE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

4.  Never speak with the police until your mom or me or our lawyer is present. Just give them your name and birthday. That’s it!!! Be respectful at all times but don’t answer any other questions.

5. This last one is the most important one and the hardest to tell a kid. Also, the hardest to read. But it saved my life before and it will save theirs one day too. No one will help you if the time ever comes and you’re being mistreated by the police. Don’t let the crowd get you riled up. You can’t get away with what your classmates can get away with. Don’t use profanity at the police. Be respectful and keep your hands above your waist at all times. Don’t ever reach for anything while in your car or standing. No one thinks our lives are so great that they will switch places with us so therefore no one is going to risk their neck for you if you are mistreated, except your family.

Which is what we witnessed in the latest video going around with George Floyd. Hmmm…. crazy this was what I was taught over 33 years ago and it’s still a lifesaver today. Now I’m willing to bet many of you have never had “the talk” with your own kids. But we have to in order to give them a fighting chance.

If they screw up like kids do, then the chances of getting a good education and job go from slim to none. We still need to have much needed civil conversations and education on what to do for change to occur with those of the opposite color. Fathers and mothers like me have been destroyed emotionally after reading the comments on the posts going around.

I’m a proud husband, father, son, brother and business owner. I ask for prayers from all of you because I’m emotionally tired. Check on your black friends. Talk with your kids because kids don’t see color. Invite some black children over for play dates, that way you can meet their parents and I bet it will open up your eyes to how truly amazing we are. And that we love this country and our families just as much as you do.


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2 Responses to I’m Not Dangerous:: The Reality of Being a Black Dad in America

  1. Avatar
    Clara June 15, 2020 at 6:27 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! Your family is beautiful and my heart breaks for the tough conversations and experiences you’ve endured. God bless your service to all!

  2. Avatar
    Tanya jermann June 24, 2020 at 9:10 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It brought me to tears. I am a white mom with a white child unfortunately you are correct and I will not have to deal with most of these things with my child as he is growing up. The things that I can do, and that I will and always try to do, just to let my son know that these things exist out in the world and he has to be mindful of what others have to go through. I hope that he can be a guiding force and be the Watchdog that needs to be in society to make sure he stands up and speaks about what is not right. Bless you and your family

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