A Black Dallas family’s experiences remind us that even if we seek, and achieve the American Dream, racism will rear its ugly head.
The Dallas Morning News spoke with James Waters. On July 7, 2016, when a Black gunman hunted down and killed three Dallas police officers working a peaceful rally, Waters was working late at his law office less than a mile away. His wife called to alert him of the shooting and urged him to stay put.
“I need you to promise you’ll stay there,” she tells him.
The incident came during a time of intense racial tension in the country, fueled by police killings of Black men. Alton Sterling, on the ground in Louisiana. Philando Castile, in his car in Minnesota following a routine traffic stop.
Frances Cudjoe Waters envisioned what might happen if her husband left the office at this time. Despite being a well-regarded man in his work space, when he leaves, he will just be another Black man.
Although he’s just a 10-minute drive away from home, James opts to stay put in his office, dozing at his desk as he waits for the sun to rise.
James graduated from Columbia University, the first in his family to finish college. Frances got a degree from Stanford University. Both James and Frances went on to study at Harvard Law School, where they met. But their diplomas can’t save them from one harsh reality.
Being Black in America trumps every degree, every socioeconomic status and every move made towards achieving the American Dream.
As the parents of three sons, William, 16, Joshua, 15 and Christopher, 12, the pair works tirelessly to provide the best quality of life for their family.
“We did everything America said we should do,” Frances says.
And yet, when they step outside their usual circles in Dallas — where they feel not only accepted but embraced by friends of all colors — they cannot escape racism in America. No matter their credentials or accomplishments, they’re still Black.
“We’re unprotected out in the world,” Frances says.