Words by a Mother Named Heather, who lives in Ashland, Oregon:
Disclaimer: She writes these words, however, please hear this Ashland, she is too afraid of the reaction to her Truth to lend her last name to this editorial. We can do better than this, Ashland.
In response to the Ashland Daily Tidings editorial praising the police force’s response to the wrongful arrest of a young Black man:
After sharing the story with a few of my white friends here in Ashland, they were shocked that something like this could happen in our community. Was I shocked? NO. I am sad, I am angry, but most of all I AM AFRAID. There is a very real possibility that my son will be next. My son is smart, funny, sweet, kind, thoughtful, generous and volunteers often in our community.
Unfortunately, since he started puberty, my young Black son has had more than his fair share of harassment and racial profiling from the Ashland Police Department. He received his 1st cavity search alongside one of his Black friends at the age of 12 years old near Garfield Park. Luckily, my sons friend had recently moved from Atlanta and was able to keep my son calm and walk him through the process of how to safely deal with police interaction, and was even able to prepare him for what came next. The gloved officer stated that they were responding to a report of “suspicious behavior” and proceeded with his investigation of my sons private parts. On my son’s 13th birthday he was treated to his 2nd cavity search, but this time in front of four of his best friends after neighbors had reported “gang activity with possible weapons”. Yes, his White friends were “patted down”; two pats, one on the front and one on the rear jean pockets to be precise, while my son and his black friends were given a very though search of their scrotum and butt crack before being sent on their way. Happy Birthday.
These are not isolated incidents. In the first few months after moving to Ashland, my Black husband was followed from the freeway to our home on more than one occasion. Each time, the officer stopped outside our home and waited until he entered the house and closed the door. I’m guessing that the officers got to know his car and our address because slowly the Ashland Police escort stopped altogether. Unfortunately, it’s been a couple of years and we’ve recently purchased a new vehicle. *just breath*
This type of police work happens ON A DAILY BASIS in Ashland. THESE ARE NOT ISOLATED INCIDENTS.
We teach our son how to conduct himself in public. He is not allowed to wear hoodies or ill-fitting pants (ever). We ask that he speak grammatically correct English, be respectful, make eye contact, keep calm and above all else… do not run from the police. By age 13 my son knew how to safely be arrested, although he’s never be charged or cited for a thing. It’s been a rude awakening to find that what we hoped would be a slice of heaven with a great education for our child has turned out to be exactly what our friends and family warned us about. I thought that Ashland, although still in Oregon, would be different than all the other towns and cities in Oregon that we were warned against. I had wrongfully ass-u-me(d) that since all of our visits during the previous eight years of stopping in as a tourist had been positive, that moving closer to the retired Grandparents and relocating here for a great education for our children, would be picture perfect. My husband has been very supportive, but, at the same time, he has a realistic view that Ashland is still Oregon – and Oregon is not very welcoming towards people of color.
You can call it what you want, but walking while Black will not go unnoticed. Ashland Police Department is on the j.o.b.
~A Concerned white Mom