It was the day after Christmas. I went to go see my family in Chicago after spending time with my wife’s family on Christmas Eve. Everybody was excited to see me, but the we’re really excited to see my son. Hey, he’s the grandbaby so I understand. When it came time to opening presents, I wasn’t expecting much. Maybe some socks or a gift card. I figured my family would just get gifts for our son and keep it moving. To my surprise, my grandparents did have a gift for me that I won’t soon forget. It was a dashcam! I was utterly stunned but graciously said thanks. On the way back home my wife and I openly wondered why in the hell my grandparents (my grandfather in particular) purchased a dashcam for me? It didn’t really have a practical function in my everyday life. Then my wife said something I’ll not soon forget. “Maybe they got that for you so you can record the police!”. My life as a Black man was summarized in a nutshell by this one gift. My grandparents got me a dashcam for Christmas for my protection; not from common thugs, but from the police!
It seems so surreal. As 2016 rapidly approaches, my grandfather fears for my safety against police brutality as much today as he did twenty years ago when he demanded my cousin and I wear a watch and never to be out after dark or without an ID. Not to protect us from local gangs, but from racist police officers. My grandfather fears that I will become the next Samuel DuBose! Just that week in Chicago, a city already reeling from the LaQuan McDonald cover-up saw police shoot Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones under suspicious circumstances as well. We are made to live in constant fear. Inundated with images of murdered Black men and women daily. Fear and loathing are synonymous with the Black experience it seems. Nothing encapsulates this feeling more than the fact my grandparents got me a dashcam for Christmas.
I have a Bachelors degree from the University of Illinois. I’m currently weighing the cost of attending Graduate school (I was recently accepted into an MBA program). I currently work as an Assistant Facilities Manager for my alma mater. I’ve never been in trouble with the law, spent eight years in the Army Reserves, and come from a well-educated military family. Yet my family still fears I could easily end up like Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, or Eric Garner. This fear is not a recent phenomenon that Black people just recently conjured up. The residuals of Slavery and Jim Crow are still felt to this day!
I had hoped that by the time my son was born, these constant worries would be a relic of the past. Alas, I now know that we will probably have the same talk that I received twenty years ago. We may never fully eradicate prejudice and racism. But at least we can create a world where getting a dashcam for Christmas is not considered a prudent purchase.