Getting pulled over for a traffic stop can be nerve-racking for anyone, but many African-American men are taught one wrong move could mean “life or death.”
Leighton Watson, 23, a project manager in Richmond, Va., says his father, who is a retired police officer in Michigan, sat him down before he started driving and had a conversation that many black men have with their sons.
“It doesn’t matter what situation proceeded the traffic stop, it could mean death,” he said. “I could be driving down the wrong side of the road and tomorrow I’m a hashtag and on t-shirts.”
A day after a black man was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Baton Rouge, La., 31-year-old, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop Wednesday in Falcon Heights, Minn.
The back-to-back shootings, were yet another chilling reason for many black men to remind their sons “to be careful out there,” according to J. Drew Lanham, an alumni distinguished professor of wildlife ecology at Clemson University.
“[My son is] 22 now, and I anticipate having to have these conversations for the rest of our lives,” Lanham said.
Lanham says while he is 29 years older than his son, he still goes through a mental checklist when he is pulled over.
“When a policeman pulls behind me, I don’t care how many degrees I have, how acclaimed I am as a professor or author or whatever,” he said. “I am simply a black man at that time who is in the sights of a policeman, and I don’t know what his or her motives might be.”
Here are six things that Lanham told his son that are similar to what Watson heard from his father about getting pulled over by a police officer.
1. Avoid getting pulled over for small infractions like a broken tail light by keeping your car up to date.
2. If you are pulled: Keep both hands on the steering wheel or in the air.
3. Try to stay calm and be “overly” respectful.
4. Look straight ahead.
5. Loudly say what you are doing, and explain every movement.
6. Do not reach for anything, and if asked make sure you are verbally saying what you are doing as you reach.
SOURCE: USA Today