Albert Dotson, Jr. is the former Chairman (and current Chairman Emeritus) of the 100 Black Men of America–a national organization whose mission is “to improve the quality of life within our communities and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans.” In a well-circulated essay by Jesse Washington published just after Trayvon Martin was shot, Mr. Dotson relayed how he had to tell “his 14-year-old son that he should always be aware of his surroundings, and of the fact that people might view him differently ‘because he’s blessed to be an African-American.'”
By having that talk with his son, Dotson–a high-powered attorney in South Florida–acknowledged what Washington in his essay calls “the Black Male Code”– that is, that being black and male in America one can expect many things, but among these is the inevitable fact that you will sometimes incite fear, paranoia, and distrust in strangers. (Trayvon Martin died from inciting exactly that.) Dotson is gifted with language (see his easy alliterative praise of his predecessors’ accomplishments) and he puts a loving spin on the message, noting that his son “is blessed” as no doubt he is. But it’s obviously a sad fact that a responsible father needs to have this talk, loving spin or not. And that such a talk could mean the difference between living and dying? A disaster for the country which too easily countenances “stop and frisk” in New York but goes wild with indignation about personal liberty when its emails are read. Dotson’s professional expertise is in public-private partnerships–P3s, as they’re known–the kinds of deals that build municipal roads with private money and sports arenas with public funds. He knows how to get things done, how to bring two sides together. In many places, and in Florida especially, a different sort of public-private balance (how private citizens are treated in the public sphere)–so necessary for society’s success–is presently endangered. The people are losing faith in their institutions’ ability to do right. It’s too much to ask, of course, of anyone, but we can always hope that exceptionally talented people like Mr. Dotson and organizations like the 100 Black Men of America will turn some of their wisdom and eloquence toward this trouble and somehow help us lift ourselves out of it.