From left: Clay Hardy, Jaelen Jackson, Jason Jackson, Andrea Jackson and Gabe Jackson. While Jason and Andrea Jackson have told Gabe, 12, that he needs to be more deliberate than his white friends in how he deals with police, they want him to know that many members of law enforcement operate with integrity.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Jason Jackson works at South Portland High School as an education technician, and his wife, Andrea, works in disability insurance. They are raising sons Jaelen (15) and Gabe (12) and have also opened their home to Clay Hardy (21).

JASON: We as a family and us a couple have always been pretty vocal about the way they have to carry themselves versus your average young white male out in society. Our youngest, I think it’s crept up on him a little quicker than we expected. We haven’t had as many talks with him as with our oldest son.

ANDREA: Jaelen has had some experiences (of racial prejudice). When he was in fourth grade he was pushed down on the playground and called the N-word by a fellow student. He was playing basketball in eighth grade, dribbling down the court, and a kid yelled out to him from the opposing team’s bench to go back to his slave house. So he’s had some personal experiences and we’ve been able to have those conversations with him.

JASON: I’ve pulled certain players aside during my years (coaching) football and had conversations with them regarding kneeling. I’ve been blessed enough, in a predominantly white state, to be around young men and young women of color. I’ve had to do a lot of educating in regards to how to conduct themselves in public and why it’s different for them than others.

ANDREA: We’re trying to tell Gabe that he has to be careful in dealing with the police and he has to approach that differently than his white friends. But also balance that with the fact that not all police are bad. We’re trying to make him understand that there’s some really good ones out there that we know, that we’re friends with. He looks at me and says, ‘Well, how will I know the difference?’ I don’t know how to answer that.

JASON: You can imagine how confusing that is for him if it’s confusing for us. There’s no real formula.

ANDREA: You’re going to have to trust your instincts and be careful with every police officer until you figure it out.

JASON: In regards to Clay, he’s not the only one of color that we’ve had live with us. We have two bonus sons. I’m more or less an uncle to them. Our other son/nephew (Ben Williams) is in San Diego serving in the (Marines).

I recently had a conversation with Clay about the protests and some of his friends being treated a certain way and being down there when things aren’t too good, you know, after the sun goes down. On one hand, he’s excited about it and being right in the mix. I told him sometimes being in the mix and being up close and personal is not what you need to be. You’ve got a lot on the line right now. You need to avoid those situations. In certain situations, they’re not going to hear that you were mistreated. You’re going to be considered one of the ones who was acting unruly and defying law enforcement.

If you get arrested, that changes everything in your life. Your opportunities as a black man are different in general in the United States. If you get a record, let’s start thinking about what’s at stake.

ANDREA: Jaelen snuck out of the house (on a recent night). I grew up here. I went to South Portland High School. He’s heard all the stories about me. So he was like, “Really, Mom? You did this. I know you snuck out, too.” I had to tell him, “Yeah, I did, but it was a different world for me. If I’m out at 15 or 16 years old riding around South Portland, police looked at me as somebody they had to protect. They’re not going to look at you that way.”

– Staff Writer Glenn Jordan