We have all been moved by the events of the past few weeks: The deaths of two black men in police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. Along with the carnage in Texas where five Dallas police officers were assassinated as a black man targeted white police officers for murder simply because of the color of their skin.
These events moved me to revisit and to re-give “The Talk” to my son Chandler and my nephew Benjamin.
“The Talk” is a conversation that parents of young African American men have given about the way they are to conduct themselves when dealing with the police and the larger American society.
The reasons we parent’s give this talk is bigger than the events of last week. We give “The Talk not only because we love our children, but because of these cold hard facts recounted in a recent speech by President Obama.
According to various studies:
- African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over.
- After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched.
- Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites.
- African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites.
- African American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.
- The African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population.
Given the higher than average chance that they could be stopped by the police. I gave the gave “The Talk” to the Benjamin and Chandler just like my father gave “The Talk” to my brothers and I years ago.
However, unlike my father who only had to give “The Talk” once. Today’s world of cell phone captured and social media live video of police encounters requires that parents have an ongoing dialogue about the dangers that are out there.
These were my talking points
Sons both of you are a wonderful people made in the image of a great God and I am very proud of the men that you are becoming.
You have seen the news and you know about what happened in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas however, let me assure you not all police offices are bad.
The vast majority of police officers in this country are good people and I would be proud to see you become one. They have difficult jobs and they deserve our respect.
These rules that we are about to discuss again are to help those officers who are good and to protect you from those officers who are bad.
- Keep your car in good repair. Make certain your tail and head lights and other parts are properly working. If you need money fix them let me know.
- If stopped by an officer be polite, address the officer by saying yes and no sir. Put your hands on the top of the steering wheel where they can be seen. If it is at night turn on the light. At any time of the day turn off the music, tell people in the car to be quite, put their hands in plane site and let you do all the talking. Again be polite.
- Remember to always take your drivers licensee picture in a coat and tie. Reason, it allows the officer to see you as professional, not the hip hop thug that the clothing you may currently have on may indicate.
- Place your insurance card and registration in the clear plastic folder that I gave you. When ask for it, ask the officer if you can retrieve them from the glove compartment.
- Unclutter your glove compartment so that you will not have to fumble for the clear plastic folder. The longer you take the retrieve those items the more the officer may think you are going for a gun.
- When the stop is over get to a safe place and call me we will discuss what took place and figure out next steps.
- If you are arrested call me. I will bail you out no questions asked.
- Always know that you are a wonderful person made in the image of a great God I love you and I am very proud of the men you are becoming. Also always remember that our police officers have difficult jobs follow these rules so that we can support them and that you can come out of a traffic stop alive.
The source documents for what we know as the New Testament were written in Greek. The Greek word for police is Aστυνομία which means citizenship, administration, civil order and authority.
Police officers take an oath to protect and defend. Part of that oath is the wiliness of an officer to die in the protection of their fellow citizen.
Jesus said in John 15:13: Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The five officers who died in Dallas laid down their lives for the protection of their friends. The citizens at a protest march highlighting possible misconduct by the police in Louisiana, and Minnesota.
I ended “The Talk” with something I had never said before; I said sons, “remember the police are our friends let’s do everything we can to keep the friendship going.”
As we continue to absorb what has happened let us seek accountability, let us seek justice and let us continue to seek to be friends.