From StevenD over at Booman Tribune:

Back to Black Man – 101
by TerranceDC
Mon Jul 27th, 2009 at 02:30:59 PM EST

Henry Louis Gates and I are very different people. He is a Harvard Professor. The closest I got to the ivy league was a weekend visit to Yale. He is a successful author. I am a blogger whose aspirations may outstrip his abilities. He is world renowned. I am, well, not. He is, most definitely, far more knowledgeable about a great many things than I am, I’m sure.

However, we have two things in common. We are both black men. As such, though he’s a college professor and I’m long out of college, we are both perpetually enrolled in the same course.

It’s called Black Man – 101.

This gets to right to the heart of my point. As an African-American male, I have always been taught to show respect to the police, even when or if I feel that the officer is wrong. As a survival technique, I am teaching this to my son and I convey this to my students and all of the other young people that I engage in my lectures. My parents and other elders have always taught me “an argument with a cop is an argument you will always lose … if you don’t get along with the police, you will probably go along with the police and that’s a trip you do not want to take. Even when you’re right, if you fail to comply, you’re wrong. You’re objective during an encounter with the police is to leave that encounter in the same manner in which you entered it, in one piece. You can challenge the officer later in court. That’s ‘Black Man – 101.’”

Taking it is a prerequisite for survival. There are no grades. It’s strictly “Pass or Fail.” There is no mid-term exam, no final exam, and no graduation ceremony at the end. There is a ceremony at the end, but you won’t see it. There is no diploma, either. But there is a certificate, and everyone know will know you’ve graduated if under “Cause of Death” it reads “natural causes” or something else that is not caused by any officer of the law.

There is no class picture. Just pictures of those who didn’t make it, as a reminder that you can be tested at any moment. And, yes, the test is often rigged.

I fit the description then, and I’ve fit the description since. The next time I can remember is when I was in college. I was walking back from class, on my way to the dining hall for dinner, dressed like most of my friends dressed on our predominantly white campus, in torn jean and a t-shirt. I was halfway across the parking lot of one of residence halls when it happened.

I’d seen the police car when I was waiting to cross the street. I didn’t give it much thought, because I wasn’t doing anything. But the officers had paid a lot more attention to me than I had to them. They turned into the parking lot, and stopped right in front of me as I walked across.

One of the officers got out of the car and began asking me questions. Was I a student? Where was I going? Where was I coming from? Could I show him my student I.D.? I did, and he told me that there had been some cars broken into in that lot, and some break-ins at the nearby dorms, and that I fit the description of someone seen in the area around the time of the earlier crimes. And then more questions. Did I know anything about the robberies? Did I know who might be responsible? Did I walk through that lot every day? (Not after that day, I didn’t.)

Eventually, the officer finished his questions and let me walk away. They sat parked in the car as I went on. Keeping an eye on me, I’m sure. I thought about how differently that situation might have ended, because I knew even then the truth in what Anthony Williams said: “You never know what to expect when you get pulled over by the police, and that’s how it is when you’re black.” This was before the Amadou Diallo shooting, before Malice Green, and before Abner Louima. But being from the south, I heard stories, and I knew that I couldn’t completely trust the police, even if I’d done nothing wrong; not so much because of the police a whole, but because I didn’t know who — what kind of person — was behind the uniform, and what they might project upon me as a black man. I’d been trained without even know it on how to respond to the police; saying “Yes, officer,” and “No, officer,” and offering only the information that was requested, and then only if they had a right to ask for it and I didn’t have a right refuse. Ask the questions I had a right to ask, but never show anger or disrespect, even if they do.

My first teacher in Black Man 101 was my father, and I remember one lesson in particular.

The rest of this good piece is over at Booman Tribune at the link above.

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