Tina L Porter

My Dad, The FBI, and me

Family, Parenting, Race No Comment

One of my earliest memories from my childhood was of me riding on my father’s shoulders.

I must have been very little to have fit there, on his shoulders for any length of time, and I know I was young because this had to be sometime around 1967 or 68 and I was 4 or 5. We were in a protest march–against the war, against racism and poverty.

I remember the dark night and the street lights and the light from candles being held by unseen hands ahead of us. I remember being a little overwhelmed by all the people, the songs, and all the things there were to look at. And probably, I was anxious to be back home in bed.

But the glue of this memory, the thing I have never forgotten and my brain may hold onto as long as I live and maybe longer, is my father pointing to a van at the side of the road. “See that van,” he said. “The FBI is in there and they are taking pictures of us right now. They’ve got a file on me, and now maybe even you.”

So, that happened. Any wonder I’ve been afraid of authority figures all my life?

I’m remembering all this this morning because I just watched the president of the United States of America, once again, take a stab at verbally dismantling the FBI. And I am conflicted.

My father held a lot of out-there beliefs, a lot of conspiracy theories that I felt it was best, for my own health and anxiety, to skirt or ignore completely. And I did at my own peril, because I’m seeing that many of the things he railed about really were the underpinnings of what is happening in this country right now. Even back in 1967 or 68, he was about as ‘woke’ as any liberal, white, former-minister could be about racial issues in America. (Not so much on LGBTQ issues, but that’s for another day.)  He wasn’t so much prescient about what would happen in the future as he was present to what was happening in the moment and able to trace it back to the founding of the country and follow the through-line to what the future held for Black Americans and immigrant communities from Mexico and further south.

He was the kind of outspoken man who wrote letters to the President and his representatives and stood up to the policies that criminalized blackness. He marched and held signs and spoke truth to power–and whoever else was around. He was the kind of man who would have a file with the FBI under Hoover.

So I watched the president this morning, and I watched the grilling of Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein by members of the Republican party, and I imagined my father’s head exploding. Much like my own did, but by lesser degrees.

This is some kind of skullduggery by the manic Republicans, to get a woman like me–raised by a man like my father and a mother who is his peer–to want to rise up and defend the FBI?

But I ain’t takin’ the bait.

Not today, when I can still see the candles in the darkness and my dad’s hand waving toward a van. I’m just going to point my gaze and my body toward the candles held by those who resist tyranny by any hand, seeking liberty. Just as my dad would have; just as my mother does.


If you are following the lights held by women of color, take time to support them. Here are a few to consider:

  • Black Women Holiday Fund: https://www.paypal.me/FergusonResponse
  • https://donate.thousandcurrents.org/checkout/donation?eid=126523
  • https://www.safetypinbox.com/

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