All young Black men get “The Talk” at one point or another.

It’s filled with pointers and suggestions about how to handle police encounters when walking, driving, or just breathing while Black. My mother gave my younger brother and me The Talk when we turned 12, and 15 years later I gave it to my little brother “M.” If you’ve never had it and/or have to give it,

It boils down to these six essential tips:

Image captured by Kwesi Abbensetts

You will be looked at as a criminal

I explained to “M” that it doesn’t matter how you dress, act, or talk, in the eyes of most if not all police officers, you’re a criminal.

Keep your hands by your sides

Many Black men have been murdered because their hands were moving or twitching nervously around police. Maybe it’s because they think we all pack 9mm’s or have the strength and skill of Floyd Mayweather. Nevertheless, keep your hands still and visible.

Talk cool and keep eye contact

When talking with police, maintain a cool, calm voice —kind of like Snoop Dogg — and keep your eyes locked on the officer. These small gestures project a sense of honesty, like “See officer so and so, I’m an ordinary Negro, not a super gangster like you think I am .”

Don’t roll with too many homies

When I was younger, me and my guys would never “roll four deep” (or have four or more passengers in the car).

That just screams to an officer, “Please pull us over.”

If four or more of us had to go to somewhere, we would either walk, take a cab, or just meet up later.

Pull over in public

If you’re flagged down while driving, try your best to pull over around people. Why? Well you want witnesses just in case your traffic stop goes awry. More than one witness can help you in court if the police say you “assaulted” them. Speaking of police trustworthiness…

No warrant, no search

Under no circumstance should you allow a police officer to search your car without a warrant. Why? Well, for one, it’s your right. Two, you don’t want the cops to magically “find” an eight-ball of coke or a weapon used in a commission of a crime. I’ve read too many reports of police planting evidence on Black people during traffic stops to not always follow this rule.


After I gave The Talk to “M,” he was blown away.

He asked me:

“Is it always going to be like this for Black people?”

I looked at him, gave a big sigh and said, “I don’t know man.”

It’s a shame that we have to pass along these tips to our children to ensure their survival (and even then, we don’t know if they will survive). They should be concerned with getting a great education and growing to be upstanding adults, not figuring out how to walk away unscathed from an encounter with the police.

However optimistic this sounds, my hope is that “M” will never have to sit down with a young Black person and give him or her The Talk.

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