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‘I’m afraid to drive:’ A St. Louis father and son discuss the impact of policing on their lives

How do you talk about policing with your children? Gregory Carr, Sr., and Gregory Carr, Jr., discuss the impact policing has had on their lives.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
How do you talk about policing with your children? Gregory Carr, Sr., and Gregory Carr, Jr., discuss the impact policing has had on their lives.

Gregory Carr Jr. is fourteen years old, a rising sophomore, and about to have a birthday that means he’ll be able to get his driver’s permit. That coming-of-age ritual has taken an ominous tone in recent days after the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Castile was shot to death by a police officer in St. Paul, Minn., while in his car.

When St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh asked what the world looks like to him right now, Carr Jr. replied:

“I see a scared young man in a scary, cruel world. Almost 15, I’m afraid to drive. I’m afraid to jog out in my own neighborhood. I’m afraid to work out in my own front yard because I’m afraid I will be profiled by a police officer passing by or a police officer already being there. My take on this? Anger and, that’s it, just anger.”

Carr Jr. was joined by his father, Gregory Carr Sr. who is a professor at Harris Stowe State University and who we’ve spoken to before about the conversations black families have with their children about interactions with police.

"I see a scared young man in a scary, cruel world. Almost 15, I'm afraid to drive."- Gregory Carr Jr.

Carr Sr. said that his father used to tell him “if the man stops you, you say ‘yes, sir,’ you say ‘no, sir,’ you do whatever he asks you to do.” He said he’s had to translate that message of compliance to his millennial son. He’s a bit at a loss because many victims of police brutality have been in compliance with officer requests.

For example, Castile’s mother gave an interview with CNN about her son’s death, saying she had always discussed the idea of police compliance with her son.

"That's the key thing — the key thing in order to try to survive being stopped by the police, is to comply,” Valerie Castile said. “Whatever they ask you to do, do it. Don't say nothing. Just do whatever they want you to do. So what's the difference in complying, and you get killed anyway?"

Carr Sr. said he has been stopped himself three times in the last 13 years in the subdivision he lives in and two of those times he has feared for his life. Those incidents have informed how he talks to his son about policing. Over the past few days, Carr Sr. said that he’s started to talk to his son differently.

“Now, I tell my son: you need to know what your rights are too,” Carr Sr. said. “We’ve discussed rights and what you can say. For example, last night, I was sharing with my son I was being tailed by a police officer and I turned off into a lighted area and the police officer drove past. I told him that there are things you can do within the law to get yourself to a safe area. A lot of these things happen in dark, isolated areas. If things happen in more populated areas, people can take pictures.”

Carr Jr. said advice like this makes him feel a little safer but doesn’t help that much.

“These two shootings that have taken place were both caught on cameras that were nearby,” Carr Jr. said. “Me driving or walking into a place with cameras, I don’t think that would change the situation.”

Listen as father and son discuss racism in St. Louis, policing, the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the shooting of police officers in Dallas and the silence of friends:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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