Driving While Black: Teens, teachers and parents share concerns

Police make regular visits to Boys and Girls Clubs where this topic comes up

Bluffton, SC (WSAV) – Most of us remember the excitement and anticipation of getting our driver’s license. Hitting the streets without the parents was pure freedom. But now there’s a heightened sense of fear among one group of parents and teens.

More and more young African American men are checking off a list before they press the gas pedal, while their mothers anxiously wait for their return. Darren and Kevon are college-bound job-holding teens, enough to make any mother proud. But both know when they’re on the road, it’s anxiety and fear back at home.

“She’s terrified,” Brown said of his mother. “They see everything that’s going on around us in society and really in the United States and police vs black males so they want to make sure I’m well protected and I’m well—prepared,” Brown said.

The videos – the hashtags–the stories all have parents, grandparents and teachers now talking in a different way to the black males in their lives.

“It is very real,” School Counselor Kimberly Brown said. “Working in education, working in a school that is 85% African American, working with young black African American boys, especially, you try to instill in them that you reply, you cooperate, you answer questions and you allow adults to fight for you later.”

Darren Miller’s mom tells him ways she believes he can avoid being pulled over in the first place. “Nothing incriminating on your head like a durag or one of the little wave caps,” Miller said.

An unwritten dress code for driving may sound silly to some but their parents feel like it could mean life or death. “We’re put into a class to where like in a blink of an eye our life can be taken away,” Miller said.

While the viral videos surface from near and far, locally, law enforcement is working to build relationships and talk through these concerns with black males and their families.

Bluffton police officers make regular visits to the Boys and Girls Club where this topic comes up—and they candidly address it. “For one bad policeman there’s like a thousand good police officers,” Miller said.

But even with a constant effort, Kim Williams said, “I’m afraid for my boys.”

Williams is mom to five African American boys. “If they just have a nice car, tinted windows and being a young black male, I’m afraid they’ll be stopped for that,” Williams said.

She added these types of conversations with her sons are nothing new. “You see more of it now because of the social media and the news but I think it’s always been a concern for everyone. We’re just publicizing it more now because everyone has access to cameras,” Williams said.

The technology is allowing teens to play the scenes over and over and wonder whether they’ll be next. “I just hope we can come together and work on it.  I don’t know how we can really do that but that’s a prayer,” Williams added.