The Talk

So, I’m walking home tonight from my nightly walk and I get about two blocks from my street and I see three police squad cars – lights flashing brilliantly – blocking off a street just ahead of me across from the NIH. As I get closer I notice they are surrounding a car that looks like a tan Chevy Malibu and sitting behind the steering wheel with the door open, is a young white male. He listens passively as an officer leans over the door and talks to him. Standing beside another squad car are two other young white males; one with his arms crossed and the other with his arms hung listlessly in front of him, as two officers talk to them. None of the young men are handcuffed.

However, as I cross the street and get a closer look, I notice a third young person; a black male standing beside the third scout car and he is handcuffed. I slow down for a minute to take it all in, and stare intensely at the black youth, who I know saw me (it was about 11:30 pm and I was the only person on the street), but he stares straight ahead, not saying a word.

I don’t know any of the kids, and I have no idea what the circumstances are. They could be serial killers, or Facebook killers, or drug cartel members, bank robbers, Russian agents, ISIS recruits, or maybe just a bunch of dumb teenagers out joyriding after curfew. Who knows? But seeing that young black boy handcuffed while it appeared the white youths were receiving a good tongue lashing from the all-white police officers, irritated the hell out of me. I know I am being grossly unfair and presumptuous, but it hit too close to home.

My kids grew up in a community not all that dissimilar from Bethesda, and frankly, had more white friends than black. I had the “talk” with both of them by time they were ten-years-old. And when they reached their teens, they seemed to always be in that kind of situation. I sounded like a broken record constantly, relentlessly, warning them that they absolutely, positively, WILL get arrested and go straight to jail – even if their white friends did not – if they were stopped by the police due to some kind of violation of the law. It did not matter whether they were innocent of any crime or violation. And for good measure, I would add that besides ruining their reputation, embarrassing our family, and severely disappointing their grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins who look up to them, their foolishness would ruin their chances of getting into a good college and possible job in the future.

Fortunately, we never encountered anything major. But I can only imagine what that young boy’s parents are thinking or saying to him tonight, if they have been notified of his arrest. One thing for sure, he needs to hear the “talk” again.


Trevor W. Coleman