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How parents talk to their African-American sons about the police

March 20, 2015 at 6:15 PM EDT
As communities around the nation grapple with questions of race and police brutality, a New York Times short documentary asks parents of African-American boys what they say to their sons about how to respond if stopped by police.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a special contribution to our series Race Today, where we have been exploring how different generations see the issues making headlines.

The conversation is a short film from the Op-Docs team at The New York Times.

Directors Geeta Gandbhir and Blair Foster spoke to parents of African-American boys about the conversation they have with their sons on how to respond when stopped by the police.

MAN: There’s this unspoken code of white — of racism and white supremacy that says that my life doesn’t matter.

WOMAN: You can put your hands up and say — and cooperate and say that I’m choking and still be killed and then there’s no repercussions.

WOMAN: It’s maddening. I get so frustrated and angry about having to prepare my kids for something that they’re not responsible for.

WOMAN: And these are conversations that people of other races do not have to have with their children.

MAN: The conversation with him was really just, look, you’re a beautiful young boy.

WOMAN: Being African-American is a wonderful thing, it’s a wonderful blessing, you have come from great people, but it’s also a hard thing.

MAN: In America, because of your skin color, as a black boy and as a black man, we are going to be dealing with a lot of danger.

MAN: Under no circumstance are you to talk to the police if you’re arrested until I get there.

WOMAN: Do what they say. Don’t get into any arguments.

WOMAN: Make sure your hands are out of your pockets, so they can see.

MAN: These are the questions you can ask. This is who to call. This is what happens if this bad thing — it’s not like, please, master, don’t whip my.  No, it’s like, excuse me, sir, what’s your badge number? I’m going to film this.

MAN: 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.

WOMAN: You have every right in this world that anyone does.

MAN: What I love about you, as my son, is, I remember when we thought about having you, and, you know, knowing that we wanted you and watching you grow.

MAN: You are the Muhammad Ali. You are the Malcolm X. You are the Martin Luther King.

MAN: You are an amazing young man. And the future is yours.

MAN: And I will do my best to make sure you’re safe. That’s it. I love you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You can see the entire film along with additional Op-Docs videos at nytimes.com/opdocs.

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