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"The talk": Black families teach their children how to survive police encounters

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 18:15:51-04

(LEX 18) — For many black families, "the talk" comes at an early age.

Moms and dads tell their children what they need to do if they're pulled over by police and explain that they may be treated unfairly simply because they are black.

"We want to sustain our lives, we want to increase our lives, we want to have better opportunities for our lives, and this is why 'the talk' exists," Joseph Dicks, who received 'the talk' at a young age, said. "Because we want to live."

Dicks said the conversation with his dad came early: 5 years old.

"You gotta use self-control at all times," he recalled, "Don't pop off at the mouth and you know just remain calm."

As Dicks grew older, the lessons he was taught felt more real, especially when he witnessed his father get pulled over for the first time. He said his dad used the moment to show him how to act.

"When a situation like this happens, he said, just do what I do," Clark said recalling the conversation with his father. "You stop. Okay? You turn the car off, put your keys on the dashboard, and put your hands on the steering wheel. You just be respectful to the cops. When they pull you over, it's not always for the right reasons, but don't give them any ammunition to use any type of force."

When he got his driver's license, Dicks said his parents emphasized that it's important to make sure he had all his "ducks in a row" before he left the house.

"If you get pulled over as a black man, the risk is higher for you than it is for a white guy for going to jail or being racially profiled," Dicks's father said to him. "They're not going to give you the benefit of the doubt if you're black."

Those lessons prepared Dicks for future interactions with the police.

Dicks said he has been racially profiled a couple of times over the years. For example, he said officers would pull him over because they believed he fit the description of someone they were looking for.

In one case, Dicks said an officer pulled him over because he was "looking for an African American driving a white car."

"I just shook my head and said 'really'? Dicks said. "Those were the only details I got."

As an uncle, Dicks has now given "the talk" to his nephew, Immanuel Bowie, alongside other family members.

"As a black man, I'm automatically seen as more suspicious or criminal," Bowie said. "They're already on edge when they approach my car. They're already on edge when they talk to me when they speak to me. I need to do my best to stay in character, keep myself at ease, calm, make sure that I don't do anything to set them off."

Dicks said he hopes that someday black families will not have to have "the talk," but he is also realistic that that may never come to fruition.