Some cops will hate this. They will rail about how this teaches young people to think cops aren’t there to protect them, to serve them. They’ll mumble about the War on Cops and how young people should respect them because, well, people should just respect cops because reasons. Such fragile teacups, guns and shields notwithstanding.
The Talk. Black parents have been giving it to their black children for ages because they love their kids and want to keep them alive. Is it a shame they need to do this? Of course, but the shame isn’t that they give The Talk, but that they need to give The Talk. But they do.
[Virginia Assembly Delegate Jeion] Ward crafted a bill requiring driver’s education classes to teach students how to handle themselves during a traffic stop.
On Monday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed Ward’s bill into law, making Virginia one of only a handful of states grappling with an issue made urgent by the high-profile wave of police-related shootings of African Americans in the past few years.
Illinois enacted a similar measure last year. Texas, North Carolina and Mississippi are among states currently weighing their own legislation.
It’s not that kids will be taught in driver’s ed that cops are evil, vicious brutes who will beat, shoot, maim or falsely arrest a person for being black, or white and insufficiently compliant. The lessons will be simpler.
Hampton High School sophomore Xaiver Williams, 16, said he passed the class last December and may have gotten some common-sense warnings about staying calm, but there was nothing specific.
But his father, a firefighter, passed along some tips from his buddies on the force: “Remain calm. Wait for them to come to the door. Let them know you’re going to grab the registration from the glove box. Say ‘yes, Ma’am’ or ‘yes, Sir,’ ” Williams said.
Essentially, it’s “respect their authoritah,” or acquiesce in the police rationalization that it’s all about making the cop feel unthreatened because they’re very sensitive, very delicate, and likely to react badly to the otherwise usual reactions of a person, especially a young person, to being stopped and expected to behave in a way that’s unnatural to people on the Good Guy Curve. After all, the ideas that pop into Officer Snowflake’s head aren’t necessarily the same as what any normal driver might think.
But we’re teaching young people to fear cops? Well, not so much fear, as understand that cops aren’t quite smart enough, brave enough, competent enough, to be entrusted with normal human actions and reactions. Sorry, coppers, but your litany of excuses for why you need to harm people is all about your feelz, not about others.
For any young person, this is a necessary lesson if you want to make it past a traffic stop and get home for dinner. But for young black drivers, it’s critical.
For generations, African-American parents have borne a special burden in mentoring their teenage children as they begin driving, having to say, be calm and extra polite when stopped by the police, and do nothing unexpected that could get you killed.
It’s horrifying that any parent has to have that conversation. But racial profiling by the police is a reality, and in these days of repeated and sometimes fatal highway confrontations, captured by cellphone videos, such warnings can be a matter of life and death.
No matter how unpleasant the interaction might be for young white drivers, it can be a life or death experience for young black drivers. There are too many videos to ever go back to the old days when you could deny you don’t treat Driving While Black as a crime in itself.
Sure, instead of teaching young black kids how to forfeit their rights as Americans to speak to you any damn way you please, we could teach you cops to treat blacks, and whites, with the respect they deserve as people, to stop viewing every black kid as a likely gang banger with a gun. We could tell you to think of them as your own child, whom you want to make it home for dinner just like the First Rule of Policing tells you.
But then, your kid has your union card in his pocket, to hand to the stopping cop as a matter of courtesy. You won’t write their kids, and they won’t write yours. So you don’t share that concern, expecting some other cop to show your beloved baby the favoritism that comes with the job. And if some black kid doesn’t have his daddy’s card, well, that’s not your fault.
So there is no choice left but to have The Talk. And now, The Talk is a matter of law to be given to every kid in driver’s ed. If you don’t like that young people are taught that you’re fragile wimps who will kill them if they don’t put their hands exactly where it makes you feel special, too bad. We all want our kids to make it home safe. We fear car crashes. We fear brake failures. We fear you. We wish we didn’t too, but you leave us no choice.