Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another Boy Tasered To Death | Teach Your Children

There is so much more we must teach our children. Many parents allocate a lot of agony and angst to approaching sex education. This is the least of my concerns. I worry daily about my son’s safety and his right to live peacefully within the confines of law and all of the protections it is supposed to afford him.

I’m not terribly concerned about gangs. I’m not overly concerned about drugs. I’m worried about police. I know that most police officers believe that my son was born with a target on his back.

I’m not a paranoid lunatic. I am a realist. I see what has been happening all over America with the use of tasers - especially on Black males. Read more here at: Tasered While Black.

It always hurts my heart to learn of a mother’s grief. Tammy Fontenot managed to raise her son to the ripe old age of seventeen. She managed to support him through school so that he would graduate first in his class. Now, like countless Black mothers, she is burying her son, Darryl Turner.

I find it sad that organisations which serve the community, such as the NAACP, do not offer community workshops which train our children how to survive these encounters in the first place. Instead, there are dinners and picnics.

It is important to advocate regulation and call for an investigation of how they are an instrument of deadly force. (Here’s one way to help.) It is equally important for mothers to understand their responsibility to their children. And that responsibility is to educate them to understand what it takes to to survive.

Tonight, we will head out to a peace vigil. I am even more aware that my son’s safety is paramount. Suddenly, I’m recalling an incident when he was three. Questioned about some possibly objectionable behaviour, he smiled and said, "I'm not talking." I fell over laughing. Then I said, "Wrong answer, buddy! What you should say is, I'm not talking until I have a lawyer." This is one of those bittersweet memories. On one hand, it’s cute. On the other hand, it is this early training which may one day save his life.

I waited until the teen years to reinforce this with my daughter. Back then, I drafted a statement for my daughter to carry in her wallet when she was a teenager. It stated:
1. her name,
2. an emergency contact, and
3. the name and telephone number of our legal counsel.

In hindsight I will probably provide my son with a notarised directive stating: “This is a notarised letter from the parents of the juvenile _name and age _ . He has been instructed to remain silent. This letter serves as an immediate request from his parents for legal counsel, specifically, _name_ who may be contacted at these numbers _ telephone number of legal counsel._ If said counsel can not be reached, this letter serves to request a public defender immediately. The child has been instructed not to speak until in the presence of legal counsel. We may be contacted at _our numbers._”

If confronted by officers for any reason, instruct your child to:
1. Inform the officers that her parents told her to give them a piece of paper in her wallet.
2. Politely ask permission to produce the paper.
3. If granted permission, hand over the statement and remain mute.

4. Under no circumstances was she to allow them to search her person or belongings for the piece of paper and to say, “I do not consent to a search of my person or my belongings.”

6. If not granted permission, she was to calmly repeat the phrase, "Am I under arrest? If not am I free to go."
7. During any encounter, she is to drop her chin and appear to always be looking up at the officer. She is to stand feet slightly apart, shoulders relaxed. Hands relaxed and clasped in front of her.

As my daughter became more politically active, she knew to:
1. Carry sunglasses to a rally to protect her eyes from pepper spray.
2. Wear a scarf which could be pulled over her face at the first sign of hostility.
3. Wear long sleeves and trousers - no matter what the weather. And
4. in the event of a confrontation, refer back to the previous list.

I think role-playing is essential for teaching children how to advocate for their rights. Your child plays themself. You play the evil cop. These phrases must be practiced again and again until they reside deep within them.

The day will come when I have to rely on my son and what I have taught him about his rights and surviving encounters when he exercises them. I will have to trust that he becomes mature enough to remain calm, stay cool and trust in his inner power and the law.

If you have a pre-teen or teen - here are some resources which may save their life:

ACLU Bust Card

Dumb Little Man Bust Card

Flex Your Rights

Videos which show scenarios about police confrontation.


Ferocious Kitty said...

Thank you for these resources, Christina, and for your parenting example.

I am beginning to wonder if it is open season on children. Between the cops and near-weekly reports of fathers and mothers and mothers' boyfriends mass murdering and tossing kids from bridges and using them as human shields, my heart grieves.

But back to the cops...when people try to say there is no such thing as white privilege, I point out the fact that the training of the sort you describe is not optional for black parents.

Villager said...

Thank you very much for sharing these online resources...

peace, Villager

AAPP said...

Wow, what a great post. This was truly a powerful post with empowering information. Thank you for sharing I plan to link to this post.


Christina Springer said...

Thanks Ferocious Kitty! Yes, what is critical curriculum for our children is optional for so many others.

Villager and aapp, thanks for your kind comments. Please make these resources widely available. Every Black mother needs to begin this training in the pre-teen years. No Black child who is able to walk unescorted through the streets should be without this information. And it is freely available.

Big Man said...

Great post.

I hadn't even thought about role playing in police situations. I will conduct these sessions with my son as soon as he is old enough. At what age did you begin having your daughter carry around her information card?

Christina Springer said...

Hey Big Man! Any child should be able to recite key phrases under any amount of stress. Role playing is a great way to help them memorize appropriate reactions. I think the best time to give a child "their papers" is when they are independently mobile, such as the ability to take public transport or visit a playground alone. Anything can happen anytime.

Lakisa Muhammad said...

I got your blog address from Black Homeschoolers Club. Thank you so much for this vital info. I have a Security Class with my 4 year olds where we go over full names, address, phone numbers, parents' names etc, and I am going to start incorporating this info. It is never too early when dealing this enemy. Thanks again.

Lakisa Muhammad

Christina Springer said...

Sister Lakisa,

I'm so glad you found this post helpful. And I'm even happier that I had some small amount of information for you to incorporate into the important work you are doing! Stay strong and active! And thank you for giving of yourself to your community!

Anonymous said...

What it must be like to retain legal coucil.

"I worry daily about my son’s safety and his right to live peacefully within the confines of law and all of the protections it is supposed to afford him.

Yeah.. I'd strike peacefully as a description of life, rather a goal. Its not all peaches and cream, and you seem to acknowledge that, but also seem to want a doomsday shelter over your childs head.

Anonymous said...

Oh, WOW, Christina.

Thanks Again!!!


Christina Springer said...


I'm glad if it was in some way helpful.

Anon - I understand that not everyone can afford to retain legal counsel. I did spend time pondering this as I wrote this post. But, I realized I could only speak from my own experience. A child whose parents can't afford legal counsel, can simply provide their own contact information. They could then be present at any questioning - as they should be.

This post suggests that the calm, polite assertion of constitutional knowledge can be a deterrent.

However, there is no way to prepare a young person for a cracker determined to hang a nigger life from his belt.

Too often, I see clips of beligerent, ignorant Black folks being tasered. This kind of training in our communities goes a long way towards our continued victimisation.