My memory of how it all played out is vague. We had literally just turned off of our road when my father and I were pulled over by the police. I was naive and in my early teens so i wasn’t afraid and didn’t think too much of it. My dad though, had a fire in his eyes and tone in his voice i hadn’t noticed before as he spoke to them. They asked us to get out of the car. As they separated us my dad switched. The officer asked me where we lived whilst Dad was kicking off on the other side of the road. He was livid they were trying to talk to me separately. He tried to get to me, trying to protect me. I don’t remember much but I just remember him hollering at them not to talk to his son. They let us go. I can’t remember if we carried on with our journey or headed back home, but the image of his rage whilst the police officer tried to talk to me and hold him back I will never forget.
I don’t remember us talking about it either. For all my previous years my parents had been able to protect my brother and I from any negative encounters with the police. Up until that moment I had no reason to think that the police may discriminate against us because of the colour of our skin. On reflection, I now know that we were pulled over because of the car we were driving. I now know that no further action was taken because there was nothing to find in the car and that my father had committed no crime. We never spoke on it. I guess he was still trying to protect me and my innocence, maybe he couldn’t handle having that conversation with me or maybe he did and I just blocked it out.
My Dad grew up in the 70s and 80s. He and his cousins were children of the first Windrush generation. Born in England they knew no other home and influenced by the struggles they saw in America they were not willing to just accept the discriminations and atrocities that many of their parents just accepted and got on with. They spoke up, they fought back and stood up to help create a better tomorrow for their children. Despite being stopped and searched a number of times in my 20s all around London my father’s generation had succeed. I can’t say I have suffered anywhere near what they did. Yet here we are in 2020 now in the midst of the biggest moment in the ongoing civil rights movement since the 60s. We still aren’t there yet.
And so now the time has come for me to play my role as a father, for the next generation. I must speak up, I must have awkward conversations, I must step on toes, I must stand up. Traits any one that knows me knows that I am not best known for. I keep the peace. But as a Black man in a predominantly white village and as a lone Black man in a multicultural primary school, I have to speak up & lead. Other than leadership, none of this comes naturally to me. It is hard. But we now find ourselves in a place that the 2012 riots did not take us too. That the deaths of Smiley Culture and Dallian Atkinson did not take us to. That the Windrush scandal did not take us to. People outside of the black community can no longer ignore it. More people are beginning to understand white privilege and what it means. There has been an awakening and an opportunity to help teach the next generation that the world does not have to continue with an unconscious bias that so many do not realise they have. Its time for me to play my position which may not be out on the street protesting but I know how to use my words. I know how to organise and bring people together. I know how to make things happen and push things forward so that hopefully one day when I have that conversation with my children about race things will be better than they are because of what we are doing in this moment in history and that when they are older they never have to seen anything as bad as we have had to experience this last 2 weeks. Pushing things forward, supporting and protecting my children…. just like any father would.