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What parents want their black sons to do when they're stopped by the cops

It's not a matter of if their sons will encounter the police, it's when. So they want them to be prepared.

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Open Society Foundations

These guys are dads. They've also been stopped by the cops.

"As I'm putting my hands on the steering wheel so I don't make the police nervous, I realize how nervous I was, and then I realize my children were nervous."


"Some people pull us out of the car, throw us on the floor. It's in February, so it's, like, snow and slush and stuff on the ground, put their knees in our back, put the guns to our head."

Whether they're traveling with their kids or solo, these fathers have something in common. At times, they've all felt unfairly targeted by the police due to their race.

In an effort to keep their sons ahead of the curve, they're giving them "the cop talk" in advance. Emmy-Award-winning filmmakers Geeta Gandbhir and Blair Foster, along with an awesome production team including Perri Peltz, Michele Stephenson, and Joe Brewster, put these chats on tape.

It grew into a five-minute documentary called "A Conversation with My Black Son," originally published by The New York Times' Op-Docs section. It features parents sharing advice with their sons on how to interact with the police.

Geeta told Upworthy exclusively:

"This conversation, which has been happening in the black community for generations, will resound with parents everywhere. It's a universal desire to want your children to be safe."

As a mom to two African-American boys, the filmmaker interviewed parents from her inner circle. Although all of them are parenting young black men, the tips they each had for their sons while interacting with cops were totally different. Here are a few from both moms and dads:

  • "Do what they say; don't get into any arguments."
  • "Make sure your hands are out of your pockets so they can see."
  • "Under no circumstance are you to talk to the police if you're arrested until I get there."
  • "It's not like 'Please, master, don't whip me.' No, it's like, 'Excuse me, sir, what is your badge number? I'm going to film this.'"
  • "If you want police brutality to stop, if you want police to treat you like a human being, then you have to see yourself as a human being."

Doling out advice like this didn't come easy. Some parents shed some tears. Others smiled uncomfortably.

They said:

  • "It's maddening; I get so frustrated and angry about having to prepare my kids for something that they're not responsible for."
  • "You can put your hands up and cooperate and say that I'm choking and still be killed ... then there's no repercussions."
  • "It doesn't mean that every police officer is inherently a bad person, but what it does mean is that the police force, that institution, does not look out for your best interest."

"A Conversation with My Black Son" is first in a series of documentaries that Geeta and her team launched after the string of police brutality incidents in Florida, Missouri, and Ohio. The film is part of a larger interactive series in production, that will be released in partnership with Op-Docs. It will include a speaking tour that candidly discusses the current state of race relations in the U.S.

Geeta has two goals: "to create a safe space where uncomfortable conversations about race and civil rights can happen ... that allow different communities to experience each other's realities without feeling accused or attacked" and to educate black kids.

"We do believe that an age-appropriate conversation about the obstacles commonly faced by African-American children will help them adjust to those obstacles and develop coping strategies that will serve them for a lifetime." — Geeta Gandbhir

To hear more from these brave parents, you can hear their thoughts below.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


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