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By J. Pharoah Doss


Monday, December 15, 2014.


Father-son conversations are influential; for some sons, these are essential rites of passage.   My father was a preacher.  And my first Father-son moment was a sit down, an introduction to Father-son instruction.  One day my father asked me my priorities.  I didn’t know.  I was six.  I couldn’t pronounce priorities.  Then he said, “Repeat after me: God, family, self.”  I repeated and instantly I had priorities.  I guess my father figured he’d properly prioritize me until I developed a hierarchy of my own, but until then I was stuck with his three.


            After that our father-son conversations began.  First was The Sermon.  This concerned school.   My father preached the consequences of bringing home bad grades.   Second was The Talk.  I asked about sex.  He asked if I remembered my priorities.  I repeated them.  Then he said don’t make “it” one.  Third was The Lecture.  I came home drunk.  I don’t remember what he said, but the next morning he lecture on: How to cure a headache without pain relievers paid for by parents.


            After the lecture I thought I completed my adolescent father-son curriculum.  But one night we were pulled over by the police.

            My father asked the reason.  It was failure to make a complete stop at a stop sign.  My father remained silent.  I was surprised.  I expected him to accuse the cop of blasphemy.  We made a complete stop.  My father even changed the radio station before he proceeded through the intersection.  During the exchange of license and registration two more police cruisers arrived.  After the extra officers exited their vehicles my father was told to step out the car.  He was searched.  Then I was told to step out.  I was searched.  Then they searched the vehicle.  The officer returned my father’s license and registration, thanked him for his cooperation, and the encounter was over.


            Driving home my father acted like nothing happened.  But I was bothered.  I knew the reason was bogus.  At the next stop sign I said, “We came to a complete stop last time.”

            My father agreed.

            I asked, “Then why did the police lie?”

            My father gestured to speak.  Then he stopped--completely.  The silence meant things were more complicated than my current comprehension.  I didn’t know we were in a neighborhood notorious for narcotics and fabricated traffic violations was a method to deter drug trafficking.  So my father told me it was a misunderstanding.    He could see I wasn’t satisfied with his explanation and he asked why I thought we were pulled over.  And I repeated urban wisdom.  I said, “Because we’re minorities.”

            My father shook his head, but not from disagreement.  He shook his head in shame.  He said, “That use to be a nice neighborhood, one with dignity.  It’s a disgrace what it’s become.”  


            Then he apologized to me. 

            He was sorry for what I witnessed, but I think he was sorrier that I held a belief that he neglected to prevent in a father-son conversation.

            He said, “Don’t call yourself a minority, you know Proverbs 23:7?”

            I shook my head.

            “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.  You’re an American citizen, just like the President.  There’s nothing minor about that.  That word’s use to make you feel excluded, drop it from your vocabulary.”


            After that night I used the word minority again.

            Recently President Obama addressed the nation pleading for peaceful protest after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.  The President made references to historic hostilities between communities of color and the police, and in a follow up interview he spoke of minority communities.


            After I heard these remarks I was filled with my father’s sorrow.  It wasn’t because communities of color and minority communities are the official terminology of the ‘post-racial’ White House.  It was because the president spoke them unapologetically.



An Apology Obama Never Got From His Father

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