A black teen, a flashy car and a traffic stop

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


Got a call last week from an old friend who needed a truck to haul something and I was happy to oblige. We’ve been friends for nearly 15 years, first meeting at a church we were attending. Over those years we ministered together, vacationed together, played golf together and attended each other’s children’s special events.

Unfortunately, as seems to happen to far too many of our friendships over the years, changing demands of family, work and life eclipse those opportunities, but we have always enjoyed a relationship that no matter the passing of time, we are only a phone call away.

When we do have the opportunity to talk, our discussions always involve the usual cordialities such as how the rest of the family are doing, especially our children. It was during this line of inquiry that my friend told me about something that happened to his son recently that took me aback.

More than that, it made my heart sick.

My friend’s son had been stopped in Greensboro by the police and his car searched after giving his consent. Although that may not seem that big of a deal to some, my friend is black, as is his son.

For the sake of privacy and space, I will use the name “Jim” for my friend, and “James” for his son.

Jim said that while James was visiting some friends in Greensboro, the local police pulled James over. He was not violating any laws as we understand it, but he was pulled nonetheless.

Now, before you and I decide this was a racially motivated stop, I must inform you that there was no way the police could have known the color of the car’s occupants since the car has tinted windows; tinted to the point that it would be impossible to know the color of those in the vehicle, especially at night when the stop occurred.

However, in addition to the tinted windows the car is a popular model for a particular “style” which is enhanced by the addition of oversized wheels and low-profile tires. In other words, and let’s be just be honest, by all appearances it has that “look.”

To my knowledge, James has never been in any trouble of any kind. He is an exemplary student-athlete as well as very polite and mannerly young man. He doesn’t wear clothes that give the impression that seems to be the “fad” by a lot of his “thug wannabe” peers, and by all appearances seems to be the type of young man who any father wouldn’t mind his daughter bringing home.

I would attribute all this to the involvement his parents have made a priority in his upbringing, so it certainly goes without saying that it was very distressing to learn of the events previously described late one evening in Greensboro.

Once the search of James’ vehicle was completed, the officers complimented James on his demeanor and cooperation, which I would not have expected to be any different, and although I cannot empathize with the feelings that I am sure were felt by James and his parents, I can certainly understand the distress over the incident they no doubt experienced and, unfortunately, justifiably so.

While I have endeavored to never discuss anything “controversial” in my columns, my aim is not to be controversial here, but I know that given the content there are no doubt going to be some very strong opinions regarding this situation and the outcome.

I completely understand Jim and no doubt his wife’s thinking “what if” had the officers involved been some of those few exceptions to an honorable profession exemplified by very good people, but who have unfortunately, and in my opinion unfairly, been overshadowed by the horrible actions of those few.

I completely understand the fear that swept through their imaginations of the possibility of talking to their son hours before only to receive a visit from authorities giving them the most horrific news any parent could ever hear.

For that, I have no words.

So when Jim informed me that he sold the car, I had to share.

I know what some of you are thinking; “Why make James give up something that he loved just because it may have caused undue attention by the authorities?” Or, “All Jim did was abdicate to overt prejudice and racism, and in selling the car, taught his son to have to do the same in the future.”

Maybe, however, what James was trying to convey was a father’s love and discretion that wanted his son to know that sometimes life — right, wrong or indifferent — requires hard choices, even sacrifice for a greater good, in this case eliminating a possible threat to his son’s personal well-being and safety.

Alvin R. Bass Jr. is a Wilson native. He and his wife, Robin, have two children, one granddaughter, three dogs and a cat. Follow him on Facebook at “The Lovable Bigot.”