As I cook these family favorite recipes I pray that the loves of my life make it home for dinner.
One of my favorite things about being a mom is cooking a meal for my family and I to share. Eating together around the dinner table doesn’t happen as often as I’d like now that the kids are older and their schedules are so crazy. More often than not we eat dinner in front of the TV, watching one of our favorite shows or it’s just my husband and I as the kids are all at a late band practice or some other activity.
When I know that we’re going to have time to eat together I like to make their favorite dishes. For my son it’s catfish cakes (they make great catfish burgers too) everybody in the family loves them but he is absolutely crazy for them. My dad makes them when we come to visit so I stole his recipe changed it a bit. But I wonder, as I’m breaking the catfish fillets into pieces and mixing them with cracker crumbs, I wonder if my son will make it home for dinner. My worry is that for whatever reason he encounters the police they will see him as a criminal, as a suspect simply because of his beautiful brown skin. I worry that if he walks to the taco place or the grocery store after school, before practice starts, will he be stopped because he looks suspicious or because he “fits the description”. We’ve talked to him since he was little about how to speak to the police if he is stopped, about saying yes sir or no sir, about being polite. But the truth is, even if he is polite and respectful there is no guarantee that he will make it home after his interaction with police. We have had to talk to him and since he was little about how he and his white friends are viewed differently by police and by society in general.
I worry that as he begins to drive he may be pulled over by police for a broken tail light and be made to remove his sweatshirt and shoes as he and his vehicle are searched ( I don’t think I’m being paranoid here, this actually happened to a teenage neighbor of mine. Nothing was found, the kid just had a broken tail light.) Being Brown is enough probable cause for police to search.
I’ve heard some people say that you should just comply and with police and nothing will happen to you but I have problem with that. There is no guarantee that if you comply you will be safe. Also we have a constitutional right the “right of people to be secure in their persons houses papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause…”
You may say dear reader “If you don’t have anything to hide then just let the police search your car.” Well, isn’t that what the Fourth Amendment is all about. Skin color is not probable cause. Does the Constitution apply to us as well?
Compliance has nothing to do with the law. It’s about doing as you’re told like your dad said when you were a kid. It’s paternalistic, it’s not law.
We should not be required to comply with unconstitutional request for a search. If we do comply we worry that evidence may be planted, is that paranoid? I don’t think so. It’s something that we worry about and recent videos confirm this has happened. Here is an example
I hope I’m being clear, I’m so in my feelings right now that this is just pouring out. I hope it makes sense. I also hope you understand that I am not anti police. I have great respect for police officers and I appreciate how incredibly difficult their jobs are. I also hope you understand that there is a huge disparity between how Black people and White people are viewed and treated by police.
I’m sorry, it seems I’ve gotten off track a bit. Let’s get back to family favorite recipes. My daughter’s favorite meal is sweet chili roast salmon. I serve it with steamed rice lettuce leaves shredded carrots in cucumbers and we eat it with our hands I think that’s her favorite part.
As I broil the salmon and shred the fresh carrots I pray that as she’s out in the neighborhood for a walk catching Pokemon or whatever, she’s not stopped by a neighbor who thinks she looks suspicious. I hope this person doesn’t detain her and question her (this actually happened to another young neighbor of ours jogging through the neighborhood training for the football team.)
I think about what happened to Trayvon Martin, a kid walking through his neighborhood with a bag of candy to give to his little brother, who was stalked and killed by a neighbor who thought he looked suspicious. His killer wasn’t arrested at the time because the police thought of course this young brown skinned young man must have been doing something wrong and that his killing must have been justified. His killer wasn’t convicted because….well, I still don’t understand why…that’s a lie, yes I do. It’s clear to me that the only thing that made Trayvon Martin look suspicious to his neighbor was that Trayvon
has had brown skin. So yeah, as I make the sweet chili roasted salmon I worry that my brown skinned daughter, out walking the neighborhood to “catch ’em all” won’t return home to enjoy it.
Oops, sorry. I got side tracked again. It’s been very difficult lately to keep focused on writing recipes. I guess I should turn off the news and Facebook so I won’t see any more videos like the one of Terence Crutcher unarmed, with his hands in the air, being shot and killed by police. Terence Crutcher, as he walked slowly towards his car was described by a police officer in a helicopter as looking “like a bad dude”
I worry that my husband (a tall black man with dreadlocks that hang down below his waist) will get stopped or approached by police as he’s on his way home from work will be seen as looking like a “bad dude”. Will they see him as the great dad and husband he really is? Will they see that he is a talented architect? Or will they just see a bad dude because of his brown skin? Will he make it home for dinner?
While I’m home steaming mussels with chorizo one of his favorite meals, will police shoot my unarmed husband because a black man always fits the description and is always guilty before being proven innocent. For White people the police are here to protect and serve. For Black and Brown people it’s stop and frisk. Ask yourself this question, what would your relationship with police be like if you were stopped and frisked multiple times in your life. Stopped and frisked while going to work, while going shopping at the grocery store, stopped and frisked while taking your new girlfriend on a date to Red Lobster after coming from a movie. That last one actually happened to my husband and I (I was down with Red Lobster before Beyoncé) when we began dating.
Here’s a video of the mussels and chorizo recipe my husband loves so much.
This is one of my first cooking videos, filmed by my husband in 2010. If his car breaks down on the side of the road and police come to the scene will they see him as a supportive husband or a “bad dude”?
He worries about me too, I’m sure. Black women are not immune to deadly interactions with police. I could be pulled over for something minor like an illegal lane change while going the grocery store or out to an event and up dead in a jail cell a few days later. I could be Sandra Bland. Ask yourself, how does this happen? How do things escalate from something that should have resulted in a simple ticket to a woman being dead in jail? Why was she arrested in the first place? Because she wouldn’t put out her cigarette when the police officer asked? That’s not illegal, she should not have been jailed.
What do we do about this? How do we make it better? We could start by enacting some recommendations in The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. I think if you read these articles on Shaun King’s Facebook page you may find some interesting ideas that may help.
Thank you for hanging in there with me, I hope I didn’t ramble too much.
DahliaSeptember 30, 2016 at 4:57 pm (7 years ago)
This was so beautifully written and straight from the heart. You are amazing and thank you so so much for sharing.Reply
Demetra OvertonSeptember 30, 2016 at 5:07 pm (7 years ago)
Thank you so much. This was on my heart and mind, I’m so glad you took the time to read it.
GenilleSeptember 24, 2016 at 7:09 pm (7 years ago)
Thanks so much for putting this in words. I think I held my breath as I read this because it’s exactly how I feel (down to the band practice, new driver, and Pokémon walks ). I love how you incorporated the recipes in and still told our story. Praying everyone makes it home safe tonight.Reply
michael boyleSeptember 24, 2016 at 2:50 pm (7 years ago)
I come from the recovery community. There’s a saying, “unless you’ve been there, you can’t really understand”. Thanks for sharing. Although I haven’t been there, I can at least understand a little better…Reply
Demetra OvertonSeptember 24, 2016 at 4:23 pm (7 years ago)
Thanks for commenting. I think trying to understand is a good step.