While channel surﬁng the television on Father’s Day, Reverend Al Sharpton was on one station sharing another way too many of us see Father’s Day. He reminded us the way Black fathers have been treated in this country. He talked about the 4 year old little girl sitting in the back seat when her mother’s boyfriend and father ﬁgure in her life, Orlando Casteel, was shot by the Police right in front of her eyes, as she sat in the back seat of the car. The Jury in the criminal case found that the shooting was a justiﬁed homicide.
That brought back an experience I had as a young man and a senior at Pepperdine College when the LAPD in 1968 I was arrested after parking in front of my house in South Central Los Angeles because the Police thought I must have been drinking because of the way I parked my car – a 1948 Plymouth. My wife heard the commotion and came outside of the house. At the time we had a 5 year old son and an 8 day old baby boy. We were both threatened as the Police pulled their guns on her and proceeded to beat and arrest me. By the grace of God these boys have no memory of this incident. They are now grown with children of their own. The oldest is a father of one son and that baby boy is the father of two sons.
In my practice, I have represented many young men who suffered police abuse and some of them were with their children at the time. In one case the father of two young children he had just picked up from school was stopped for an alleged trafﬁ c violation. These two young boys watch from the rear window as their father was beaten, handcuffed and taken into custody.
Reverend Sharpton went on to tell about when he was a young man and how the family would take trips from New York to his parent’s home in the south. They would stop for hamburgers. Often times when his father went in to get the food he came back empty handed. When asked about the hamburgers he admitted they told him they didn’t serve Blacks.
That story held many memories for me. I was born in Oklahoma and we took annual road trips back home from Bakersﬁeld, California. We suffered the humiliation of not being able to get food at the restaurants on the famous Route 66 and never being able to use the restrooms, as they were always “out of order.“
The South was the worse, but California wasn’t a whole lot better. After my father worked hard and built a reputation of being one of the best auto detail men in Bakersﬁeld, he went on to try to open his own business detailing cars. (Detailing is making an old car look new by washing and waxing it.) As Daddy got his business going, “The man” he had worked for went to Daddy’s landlord and convinced him to raise the rent so Daddy couldn’t afford it and had to go out of business and return to the job working for the man.
These are the Father’s Day stories that shape the lives of Black families. They aren’t always told, but they reﬂect another way we view our father by how he was treated, the outcome, and how it deeply affected us. In my case, I don’t do well working for “the man.” I have left many jobs because of how I was treated or how I saw other Blacks being treated. Because of that, I have always had my own business, from a shoe shine stand, to a Barber shop, to an employment agency, to a second hand store, to publishing a newspaper, to Practicing Law for the past thirty-ﬁve plus years.
I am here reminded of Langston Hughes poem, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stairs.“ My Daddy is gone now but the lessons he taught us, and what we saw have shaped us, and for him I thank God. To those who tried to keep him, and us, down. It didn’t work. God has prospered the Hopkins‘ family, Praise be to God!