Filed Under:  Columns, OpEd, Opinion

The hard truth … The fears of a father, Part II

14th May 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Columnist

They lied to us.

Old folks used to say that if you were not doing anything wrong the police wouldn’t bother you. They said the only people who had anything to fear from cops were criminals.

That’s a lie from hell, and there are innocent, dead, Black bodies buried across this nation that stand as evidence.

This particular lie may be the reason why younger people don’t believe other things that adults tell them. Add this one to the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and your credibility is now in the toilet.

Most Black males learn early on that you don’t have to even be thinking about doing wrong for a cop to interrupt your life. You can be enjoying a nice walk, or drive or b-ball game or just chillin’ on your own porch when they decide to move on you. You can be on your way to work, a wedding or just going around the corner to get a cold beer, it’s all the same to them. You can be an “A” student, minister or fast food cashier; if you are Black it does not matter.

For any or no reason at all they can send you to the hospital, jail, or your grave…all with the absolute blessing and backing of the criminal justice system and the acquiescence of most, if not all, Black elected officials. Virtually all public officials treat police abuse like a UFO sighting, something you must have imagined.

By the time most Black males reach 17 they have had a least one “bad cop” incident. First, you learn that walking to school or to the store is “wrong” enough for you to be stopped and interrogated. “Stop and frisk” laws and the general practices of cops who decide your skin makes you a suspect are proof that the constitution of the United States does not apply to people of color. And yes, they will falsely arrest or beat your Black rich or middle class ass if they feel like it. Just ask Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is wealthy, famous and doesn’t even consider himself really Black.

All of this is because you are Black and because we as a people have failed to unite, organize and turn or vast potential power in to real power, the kind of power that makes people and systems respect you wherever you set foot on the earth.

Did I forget to mention that your “quitting the Black race” does not count to these people? OK, next time try telling a cop that you are no longer Black and demand to be treated just like a white man. (Do you have a favorite hospital? How ‘bout Insurance?)

So here’s the short version of what I tell my 13-year-old son for dealing with encounters with cops. These rules generally do not apply to white people. They are citizens of this country and the police are here to protect them. Your status is different. The corpses and false arrests prove this.

rules for staying alive if stopped by cops

1. BE RESPECTFUL AND COOL. – You don’t have to kiss butt, but you need to keep your emotional level under control. Remember, some cops will try to provoke you. Look them in the eye. You don’t have to mouth off, but you do have a right to ask why you are being stopped. Observe and memorize everything you can about the officers and their vehicle. Most folks should not ask for a badge number, unless you are prepared to handle an escalation.

2. KEEP YOUR HANDS VISIBLE. – For a Black person, hands in your pockets or behind you can be an invitation to your becoming yet another ‘justifiable homicide.’

3. IF POSSIBLE, KEEP YOUR HANDS EMPTY. – A cell phone or ink pen or ice cream cone may look like a gun to a cop if a Black male is holding it.

4. NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS. – If reaching for identification or auto information move slowly and announce to the officer what you are doing. (Black people should never keep your gun where you keep your car’s registration and insurance papers.)

5. DO NOT TOUCH THE POLICE OFFICER. – …unless you have no other viable choice.

6. DON’T RUN, even if your friends run. DO NOT RUN!…Unless, of course, they come at you shooting. Use common sense.

rules for avoiding jail

1. DON’T HANG OR RIDE WITH CRIMINALS. – You have to be wise in dealing with folks in the neighborhood who are into crime, especially being in cars or buildings where you know it’s “hot”. In most situations if you are with them during a bust, their charge is your charge.

2. NEVER, EVER CONSENT TO A SEARCH – if police ask or try to intimidate you into letting them search your person, vehicle or home just reply “I do not consent to a search.”

3. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. You have the right to remain silent. Use it!

4. DETERMINE IF YOU’RE FREE TO GO, THEN GO. You can ask “Am I free to go now?”

There’s much more, but you get the idea. We shouldn’t have to school our sons on how to reduce their chances of being abused by cops. However, this is the real world, this is a powerful nation, and we are NOT citizens!!!

…That’s the Hard Truth!!!

This article was originally published in the May 14, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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