Growing Up

Growing up as a boy in Latin America, I realized back then that all Honduran policemen needed to do in order to join the force was to complete a 3rd to 6th-grade elementary school, be a renowned wife-beater and apply for the job. At around age 11, while on my way back from fishing with my younger brother, one of these uneducated, racists, mestizo policemen, stopped us, took all of our fish. He then pulled his gun on, us and threatened to shoot us, as my then 6-year-old younger brother started to cry.

Years later I still hear he and his partner laughing uproariously, as they walked away with our fish while reminding us that he “thought nothing about shooting a couple of black kids and dumping our bodies in the river, just as he did with monkeys en el Rio Yoro.” A river somewhere in northern Honduras. And that was the last time that I ever cast a fish line, hook, and sinker… it was the last time I stood and fish. I instead became a scuba diver and purchased diving equipment and spear guns to kill my fish, and each time I crossbar a fish with my rod. I imagined myself repeatedly evening the score with that thieving racists bastard! As I became a teenager, we’d hear stories about policemen in the United States and how they were well educated that education was the outmost requirement to join the force… any police force. Little did I know how times have changed.

Sabas Whittaker Scuba

Now in Honduras, I heard that a college education is now definitely a requirement in order to become a police officer in Honduras. While in the United States, all that is required is a high school diploma or equivalent GED, and a domestic violence perpetrators high five. Thus a complete swing to the reality of what we’d been taught. The murdering of an 11-year-old Tamir Rice came to mind, as I remembered and reawaken to that 11-year-old me who’s life had been threatened more than 4 decades earlier. Heart tends to skip several beats each time I happened to see the video of his assassination.

So… as the years drew by, unable to continue furthering my education in Honduras, due to the systemic racism, and the economic entrenchment placed primarily on black people of West Indian descent; I realized that in order to succeed, I’d had to leave. I became a young sailor at age 15. Sailed upon 16 different ships, each one being as diverse in size, salary, crew, voyages, and nautical ports visited, just as in the various positions held onboard each one of them. From a mess man to cook to chef, etc… to the last being a deck officer and on to chief security officer for well established transnational companies, large cruise ships. I studied everything I could get my hands on, and took advantage of every step toward education… meanwhile welcoming each scholarship to study abroad, mentoring and every other one of these companies sponsored inservice in state of the art available technology back then, such as Morse Code, radar, navigation, etc. To disembark in the US Virgin Island, following eight years of continued discipline work-study, as I try to readjust to live on land. Of course, I was already fluent in Spanish and broken ‘accented’ English, I’d also briefly studied Italian and learned some Greek, in the process, while sailing Greek on board Greek ships. Although I had greatly marketable skills, my ability as a dry land lobster was rather limited, but I was only 23 years old.

Thought the world was at my feet, though not really. Began to work corporate security as I applied for licensing and brushed up on some requirements in order to become an investigator. Such which turned out much easier than what I’d been used to. Nevertheless, I’d been offered a job as a police officer with the St Thomas Virgin Island Police Department. Of course, I was a young father to and their benefit appear okay… I needed money. I also needed to have a steady and secure job. Keeping in mind that I’d been raised to believe that all US cops were well-educated people, so I was banking on these expectations toward upward mobility.

Nevertheless, I’d been always blessed with great people who always had my back. Several of my friends, professor, and fellow from then college of the Virgin Island, (today) University of the US Virgin Island took me out one night, and they pleaded with me. They practically begged me, and then they outright threatened me. That if I ever joined such police department, I must stop referring to them as my friends… they’d been born and raised there and some had been long time residents on the island. I gave it a much more serious thought and followed their advice. About a month later, I began to work at the Department of Health, while I continued to study and prepared my life in a career as a mental health professional. As an advocate, mental health worker, for people with psychiatric disabilities and the criminally insane, I became the best I could be… despite 3 back surgeries, due to assaults \ work injuries… today I have no regrets. Rather the blessings that I’ve served my community and my fellowman. Still give thanks to this day to the Almighty God for such an intervention.

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