If My Son Were Black

Hank Mattimore
July 17, 2016
Reproduced with Permission

"Dad, I got stopped again by a cop last night. I was walking home from play practice, minding my own business and this cop asks me what I'm doing.

I tell him I'm just walking home from play practice at school. He looks me over and then he says "Kind of late for school isn't it kid? "Well, the play is this weekend so we had to practice kind of late." He says "What's your name, kid?"

"Dad, I'm starting to get irritated at this guy for stopping me but I know what you told me, you know, to always be polite to the police, so I tell him my name. Then he asks me where do I live? I give him my address, calling him "officer" like you taught me.

"Do you have any ID on you?" I feel like saying "Why do you need to see an ID?" But I remember what you and mom told me, so I hunt in my pants pocket and when I come up with my school ID card, my cell drops to the ground. I go to pick it up but he grabs it first.

"Anything else in those pockets?" "No sir," I say. "Why is anything wrong? "

"Just hold your hands up" He says and then he pats me down."

"You know Dad, I hate to be patted down, like I'm some criminal, so I ask him again, "Is anything wrong?" He says gruffly , "I'll ask the questions, son." Then he gives me back my ID. "OK kid, I'll let you go now but you shouldn't be out alone when it's almost dark."

"Yes officer. Thanks officer, I say but I feel like crap. Man, I didn't do nothing. I'm just a kid, walking home from play practice at school. "God dammit Dad; it's not right. I shouldn't be treated like that."

If I had a black son what could I say to my kid? I hope I would be big enough to say "You did right, son. In a racist society, your first rule is to survive. But that doesn't make it right for that cop to act the way he did. He wasn't respecting you son, Not OK. Never OK.

Remember that poem I was reading to you last night, the one that ended with the words,

"You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here." You and me and our whole nation need to hold those words in our hearts. Far as I know, our hearts are all the same color.