"The Talk" With Young Black Men Needs Urgent Update

Court TV via AP, Pool

The closing arguments in the Derrick Chauvin trial are scheduled for this week. Over the course of 11 days, the prosecution called 38 witnesses while the defense called 7 witnesses over two days. Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree unintentional felony murder, third-degree “depraved mind” murder, and second-degree manslaughter. 

Most legal and lay observers of the trial expect Chauvin to be found guilty of at least one of the three charges he is facing. The most likely is the second-degree manslaughter charge which carries a prison sentence of 10 years in Minnesota.

The maximum sentence for second-degree murder in Minnesota is 40 years in prison and 25 years for third-degree murder. But with someone like Chauvin, with no prior convictions, a second or third-degree murder conviction would likely carry a sentence of 12.5 years each and 4 years for manslaughter. If Chauvin is convicted on more than one charge, he will only serve a sentence for the most severe.

While the Chauvin murder trial was wrapping up in Minneapolis, in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter during a routine traffic stop. Potter is claiming she shot Wright accidentally after reaching for her service weapon instead of her taser.

And during this same week, an unarmed Black man who was a burglary suspect was shot and killed by the police in Honolulu. Lindani Myeni, 29, a married father of two originally from South Africa, was killed by police outside a home on Wednesday.

Police released two body camera videos Friday. A third officer’s camera had not been activated. The footage, though dark and shaky, shows officers struggle with the suspect, use a Taser on him and shoot him three times, all in less than a minute. Myeni had entered a home, sat down and taken off his shoes, prompting the scared occupants to call 911, Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard said Thursday.

Anti-police and Black Lives Matter activists will tell us these three incidents definitively prove the police are racists who prey on young black men. They will also tell us this is why policing needs to be reimagined — the euphemism they now use instead of “defund the police.”

I don’t necessarily think these three unrelated incidents prove there is systemic racism in policing or in the justice system. I think what these three incidents do show is a consistent resisting of arrest by suspects. That is just a fact.

It is unfortunate that, whenever you bring up this fact, detractors will accuse you of being insensitive and blaming the victims for their own deaths. I don’t think you can have a true examination of the circumstances surrounding these deaths without examining all aspects of these fatal encounters. The operative word here is encounters.

Like most Black men, I received “The Talk” from my parents about “Driving While Black” after earning my driver’s license at 16. The Talk included not driving around with a bunch of other [Black] boys so I wouldn’t draw too much attention from a police officer.

The Talk also included what to do if I was ever pulled over by a police officer. They told me to keep my hands in plain sight and on the steering wheel and to make no sudden movements. If it was nighttime when I was pulled over, they suggested I turn the dome light on so the officer could see everything going on inside my vehicle.

I was to answer politely with “yes sir” and “no sir” to all of the officer’s questions. And no matter how unjustified I felt the encounter was, I was never to argue or become sarcastic with the officer. I said a few paragraphs earlier that “encounters” was the operative word in this piece.

When I was young and foolish in my late teens and twenties, I had a lead foot that netted me many speeding tickets. I would forget about the court dates and, of course, a warrant would be issued for my arrest for non-appearance. I’ve had countless numbers of these warrants, and each and every time, one of my parents would come and bail me out of jail — usually in the middle of the night!

On one of these encounters, my father said something to me that changed my perspective and motivated me to become more responsible. He said he worried about me getting all these bench warrants — and that one day, I was going to encounter a police officer who was having a bad day, or worse, who was a racist. 

He was worried that I was going to say something sarcastic and the police officer was going to beat the hell out of me and claim I was resisting arrest. Or worse, I was going to be accidentally shot after making a sudden move or reaching for something on my person or in my vehicle. He told me point-blank: “You need to stop having all these encounters with the police before something bad happens to you.” Those words resonated with me that night and I changed my driving habits.

I decided from that day forward I was going to become more responsible and limit my encounters with the police as much as I can. Sadly, in most of these shootings, the victims initiated the encounter with the police and they escalated the encounter when they resisted arrest.

I am in no way suggesting that police should be judge, juror, and executioner while doing their dangerous jobs. But resisting arrest, no matter the justification, is usually not going to end well for the offender.

I said earlier that I received “The Talk” from my parents when I earned my driver’s license in the early ’80s. Millions of my peers received that same talk. I think I can speak for most of us and say that it is UNIMAGINABLE for us to have ever considered resisting arrest. My parents never had to include that in “The Talk.”

As we progress towards “police reform” and so-called “societal justice,” this phenomenon of young people resisting arrest and not complying with a police officer’s instructions is just a recipe for a fatal disaster.