How Levar Burton Tries To Avoid Police Mistreatment For Driving While Black | ThinkProgress
In a discussion on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront about use of the “N Word” in America, former Reading Rainbow host Levar Burton explains his protocol for handling a police stop to avoid violence:
Listen, I’m gonna be honest with you, and this is a practice I engage in every time I’m stopped by law enforcement. And I taught this to my son who is now 33 as part of my duty as a father to ensure that he knows the kind of world in which he is growing up. So when I get stopped by the police, I take my hat off and my sunglasses off, I put them on the passenger’s side, I roll down my window, I take my hands, I stick them outside the window and on the door of the driver’s side because I want that officer to be relaxed as possible when he approaches my vehicle. And I do that because I live in America.
CNN’s Don Lemon recounts similar experiences, with people often stopping him on the street in Louisiana to ask, “Where’d you get that car, nigga? Whose car is this?” He recounted one experience driving with a white friend who said after a police stop that he’s never had the police deal with him like that. “I’m like hello, welcome to my life,” Lemon said.
Author Tim Wise, who is white, describes an entirely different reality. He recounts a day living in Louisiana when he locked himself out of his car and the police offered to help him break in:
One day I locked myself out of my car on Roberts Street and so I’m trying to break into my car with a coat hanger and a cop comes up. And he sees me doing it. He does not even ask me for ID or proof that that’s my car. Literally, the NOPD was like, hey you’re breaking into the car the wrong way. Let me help you. The cop was trying to help me break in. Now there is not a black man in this country 23 [years old] for whom that would’ve been the reaction.