Tuesday, February 24, 2015


"Driving Lessons"

I must teach my sons
how to drive
in America.

A friend tells me
about the first lesson
his  professor
taught her African American son
after he got his driver's permit
if you get pulled over
immediately place your hands squarely
at ten and two
do not touch the gear shift
do not reach down into your pockets
do not fumble in the glovebox
for the car insurance
or registration papers
place your hands at ten and two
and yessir nosir
until you are told to do otherwise

I must teach my sons
how to drive
in America.

when my son's
rearview mirror
inexplicably falls off
I immediately call the dealer
order the part
and then the car sits
in front of our house
for almost two weeks
while we wait for the part
because black men
with defective cars
get pulled over
patted down
on the side of the road
while all the neighbors watch

I must teach my sons
how to drive
in America.

our license plates expire this month
it has been a hard month
with a six hundred dollar plumbing bill
and the toilet still gurgling
and me trying to ignore it
because there is nothing left in the bank
but we have two sets of license plates
set to expire
and i will replace my son's
before payday
because he is a six foot five
black man
and black men get pulled over
sometimes even shot
by well-meaning
but nervous police officers
and it makes my stomach roll
to think about
all that blood

I must teach my sons
how to drive
in America.


Amy Rudd said...

Thank you for sharing this perspective. I will pray for you. Hope things get better for you...

Tara said...

A powerful post - and how I wish it didn't have to be this way still.

Michelle said...

A perspective that is scary today. Something I take for granted every day that I drive. Thank you for this reminder. Powerful. Moving. And still so sad. Hope things turn around for you. Keep praying Carol. Keep praying.

elsie said...

How sad it is for you to have to teach your sons these lessons. I know your heart must race when the phone rings and your sons are not home. Breaks my heart anyone must live this way.

Dana Murphy said...

This is very powerful. The use of a poem structure and the repetition of that line gave me goosebumps. Really, this is how we have to teach black men to drive in America??

I'd like to use this post for a Be Inspired example during the March challenge. Please email me at dmurphy[at] if I have your permission. Thanks, Dana

writekimwrite said...

Heartbreakingly true. It must be acknowledged by those of us who do not experience this in order to propel change. Keep raising your voice, Carol, with your Mama's heart for your sons.

Ramona said...

A lesson no mother should have to teach her sons. We still have so far to go. Thanks for writing this.

Loralee said...

Oh my heart.
It is so sad.
I'm so glad they have you.

Elisabeth Ellington said...

Love this piece of writing so much--so powerful, so true, so painful. It's something that weighs heavily on my mind as well. I connect so strongly to everything you write about your sons.

Molly Hogan said...

Your writing always packs such power. The repetition of the shorter stanza is potent and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing this painful perspective. (Something strange happened when I tried to post this before, so I hope I'm not posting twice!) said...

This is powerful and such a sad statement of America. It reminded me of a piece I read about raising black boys - and the extra heartache and worry. I'm glad you shared this poem.

Half Marathon Training said...

Wow! What a powerful poem! Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

This is intense. I'm so astounded by the reality of your honestly and saddened by how far we've come in America, yet it's still far enough. One line that poked me was how you refer to a generic police officer as well-intended, removing blame in advance. That is why I believe you will teach your sons very, very well. This is the best slice I've read all day. Thank you, Carol.