During last week’s Democratic presidential debate, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recalled the moment he had “the talk” with his black son, Dante, about what to do when being stopped by a police officer.
On Monday, Dante spoke out about the night he felt fear before even being faced with a police interaction.
In an op-ed published in USA Today, he recalled a trip he took at age 18 to San Francisco where he was staying in a friend’s apartment. Dante had been given a key code to open the door, but he wasn’t sure how to enter it, and he found himself repeatedly pressing buttons, frustrated by numerous unsuccessful attempts to enter.
“I had been standing outside the apartment for about 10 minutes when a police cruiser slowly rolled down the empty block,” he said. “I figured it must be heading somewhere else, but no, it pulled over right in front of me.”
Dante realized someone had called 911.
“For years, I had been aware of the fear I caused as a young black man ― I had seen people cross the street to avoid me, I had been followed around stores ― yet I could still hardly believe someone thought that I was trying to break into a home,” he said.
Urgently trying to get in, Dante said he “frantically, and correctly, typed in the door code so fast that the cops didn’t even have a chance to step out of the car to question me.”
“My fear in that moment meant that I wasn’t even going to give them the chance,” he added.
On the debate stage Wednesday, the mayor raised concerns over policing, noting that he has had “very serious talks with my son ... including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution.”
Aware of just how common such conversations are within black communities, Dante said his fear “is not unique.”
“That lecture I got from my father and cousins has been given to countless young black people,” he said. “We’re taught to fear the people meant to protect us because the absolute worst-case scenario has happened too many times.”
Dante, now 21, graduated in May from Yale University.