I’m white and I got “the talk” about cops — every kid needs it

I can’t remember how young I was when I got “the talk” about cops. My parents were part of the civil rights movement in Florida, so they had an extra reason to warn me about the police. But many working class kids are taught the basic rules about dealing with people who have the power to lock you up or kill you:

  1. Be polite.
  2. Move slowly.
  3. Keep both hands visible at all times.

One rule changed in my lifetime. Dad’s first advice was to get out of the car when you’re stopped so the police can see you’re unarmed. That rule became:

4. When you’re stopped while driving, stay seated with both hands visible on the steering wheel.

Parents like mine teach two more rules:

5. Don’t let cops into your house unless they show a warrant.

6. If a cop asks if he can search your car or your person, say no.

The rules are based on four principles:

  1. Don’t do anything that might scare a cop.
  2. Don’t do anything that might make a cop angry.
  3. Don’t give an honest cop the chance to find something that’s not yours and arrest you for it.
  4. Don’t give a dishonest cop the chance to frame you.

I grew up assuming all kids got “the talk”, so I was surprised by news articles claiming it was a black thing. It shouldn’t be. For every case of an innocent black person killed by the police, there’s a comparable case involving a white person. Here are a few examples:

Unarmed white people killed in a conflict with police

James Whitehead, who insulted a police officer.

Robert Cameron Redus, who was stopped for speeding and shot after saying sarcastically, “Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?”

Jessica Hernandez, whose car may have been heading toward a police officer.

Jason Westcott, who had $200 worth of marijuana in his home and could not know the intruders were police.

Derek Cruice, who was wearing nothing but basketball shorts.

Deven Guilford, who flashed his lights at a police car that had bright lights.

White people killed for holding a harmless object

Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old who was outside with a BB rifle.

Christopher Roupe, a 17-year-old who answered the door holding a WII controller.

Sal Colusi, who held a cell phone.

Eric Thompkins, who held a cell phone.

White people killed holding knives

James M. Boyd, a homeless man who appeared to be ready to surrender.

Kristiana Coignard, a bipolar 100-pound teenager who entered a police station with a knife.

White people killed accidentally

Autumn Mae Steele, who was killed by a cop who was trying to shoot her dog during an arrest for domestic abuse.

White people in no position to harm anyone

David Kassick, who was lying face down in the snow after being stopped for an expired inspection sticker.

Michael E. Bell, who had his hands cuffed behind his back.

Keith Vidal, who had been restrained and tasered.

White people who died because of police neglect

Michael Saffioti, whose allergic reaction to his food was ignored.

Brenda Sewell, whose guards withheld her prescription medicine.

White people legally executed under questionable circumstances

Cecil Clayton, a mentally ill man whose brain was damaged in a sawmill accident.

Cameron Todd Willingham, convicted due to evidence that was discredited after his death.

White victims whose abuse by the police wasn’t fatal

Jonathan Meister, a deaf man who was tasered and beaten.

Colin Farmer, a blind man shot in the back with a taser because his stick was mistaken for a sword.

Ashley Gabrielle Huff, who spent a month in jail because spaghetti sauce on a spoon in her car was mistaken for meth.

Chad Chadwick, who was beaten, tasered, and thrown into isolation for two days after a friend called the police to report him as suicidal.

Christine Abbott, who sued Baltimore after a “rough ride” like the one that broke Freddy Gray’s neck.

Nicholas King, 14, who was shot because he held a toy rifle.

If you have children, give them “the talk” now. You may save their lives.