I am no longer worried about you. Worry happens the moment you’re born. It’s natural for any parent worth their weight and who actually gives a fuck. So, it’s not that. Don’t get me wrong, I still concern myself with your grades, your conduct, your learning and your outside influences, but now those things have become more…secondary, so to speak. Now I’m scared. I am scared daily that the possibility of you not coming home has been increased exponentially. War has been quietly declared on your race, and more specifically your gender. That gives me great pause and fills me with a fear not previously known to me.
Considering all that, I am doing something for you that I fully understand my white fathers need not bother with. I have to try and teach you how to not die when encountering a police officer. It angers me more than you could possibly fathom, but quite simply, I need you to survive.
- The Path Of Least Resistance: This is self-explanatory, but I will explain anyway. When encountering an officer in the streets or during a traffic pullover, your job is not to find out the problem, correct his/her mistake, or flex any law muscles that you may have. Your job is simply getting home safe. If there’s anything to be pursued legally, we’ll figure that out when you get home safe. If the officer went beyond his scope of authority, we’ll discuss it…when you get home safe. If you feel disrespected in any possible way, I want to hear all about every single detail…when you’re home safe. Your bad police encounter should end with you in your bed pissed at what happened earlier rather than laying on a slab at a morgue.
- Keep Your Hands Completely Visible At All Times: This is of paramount importance. No matter the agenda of the cop and no matter his/her motives, you both have one thing in common. The need to get home safe. This may not be a 50/50 exchange of reciprocity, so you may have to extend yourself more than the officer in order to achieve this successfully. You see, for a young black man, there’s only two ways out of a police encounter. Safe or dead. What Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland has taught us is that jail might just not be in the cards for us. Right or wrong, we may not make it there, so you need to keep your hands visible and preferably palms up on the steering wheel at all times. Your registration and your license should be in arm’s reach while in your car. No more glove compartments. No more arm rest. No more hidden places. By the time he/she gets to your car, you should have those things out, in your hand, and your hands on the steering wheel where they can see them.
- Repeat Everything Said To You Back In Question Form: This is for the sake of both clarity and safety. Yes, it is tedious, but very necessary to your survival.
- Announce Your Actions To Get Permission…Then Move At A Snail’s Pace: “You want my license and registration? Ok, it’s right above me in the visor…can I get it?” After you get permission to get it, move slow. Real slow. King Syrup slow.
- Record Your Encounter, Please: Dash camera, cell phone holder mount, etc. Anything that can allow you to record the interaction without having to actually hold the phone manually.
- A Hero Is Nothing But A Sandwich: You’re smart, sharp, articulate, and proud. None of this matters in that moment, because they don’t care who you are or who you came from. You’re a dangerous black man and they will be acting accordingly. You should be aware of that and understand your wit and sarcasm are not appreciated or needed. They may even be to your detriment given the wrong cop at the wrong time. Don’t be a know it all smart ass. Come home.
- The Hard Truth: This is the part that pains me the most to say. Knowing and practicing the entire above rules can only give you a chance at surviving. Just a chance. Men have been killed by police officers for less. The most sobering feeling of all is that prayers can’t and won’t protect you all the time. It’s unrealistic and a blatant disregard for the myriad of parents that cover their children with prayer daily only to bury them later. The more you know and the more you are aware of the dangers, the better you will be at getting home safe. It’s just like when you were little playing tag. Your home is “base.” The game is to get there at the end of each day, intact.
***We as parents have an easy plan. Shower you with as much love and affection that you can spare. Teach you as much as we know, and then more than that. Prepare you mentally and physically to thrive in the world as a fully functioning adult, then finally for you to bury us in our later years. We will do everything in our power to hold up our end of the bargain. Please do your very best to do the same. Survive, son. Survive. You are greatly needed.