This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
As the same ol’ living-while-black series goes, two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for being quiet, seated, and minding their own business last week. A store manager apparently called the police on the duo because sitting and waiting for a friend is an intimidatingly criminal offense. While these guys managed avoid being shot by trigger-happy cops, others have not been so lucky. We can rewind to March 22, when a black unarmed Cameron Brewer was shot and killed by deputy Danny Ray Thomas for walking with his pants down on a Houston intersection.
Under these tired circumstances, I’d normally present a connect-the-dots relationship between skin color and these cases in regular think piece fashion. I’d try to explain to white folks why this shit hurts, and why so many cops suck at de-escalation. But let’s not waste time here. You people have already heard the same words I have: systematic prejudice, racism, fear, blah blah blah. Folks like me just want to live a non-prejudiced, non-shot-at, racist-free life for a damn change. But since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, a writer like myself just may have to create a handy survival guide for dealing with cops in the meantime.
Comply with orders
Tensions are high on both sides when the police get involved. We have to remember that they’re here to help. So when a cop asks you a question, answer, and follow directions down to the microsecond. Your tenseness isn’t a factor next to a trained cop. So when your name is Philando Castile, and you tell this officer that you’re reaching for your wallet, not your registered gun, it’s up to your non-trained, regular-citizen ass to make this fidgety professional with a firearm feel at ease even when following directions.
Don’t “not” comply with orders
Don’t stop to reason, plead your case, or try any of that rational shit. In a case like Eric Garner who was tired of being harassed by police and ended up in a fatal choke hold, you probably shouldn’t even breathe. Some cops aren’t into that black and breathing shit.
Don’t be big
To be big and black at the same time is a lethal combo. Terence Crutcher died because he turned his back on a scared Tulsa officer, Betty Shelby. He was a large man, who before his death was described as a “bad dude” by a cop in an overseeing helicopter. Mike Brown Jr. was also killed by officer Darren Wilson who saw an 18-year-old kid as a “hulk” despite sharing similar heights.
Don’t be small
Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old black woman weighed less than 100 pounds when she was killed by officers within her own apartment. She also happened to be pregnant when she apparently displayed a knife in self-defense just before calling the police herself to report a burglary.
Don’t hold an object
I get that officers have tasers with great de-escalating, limb-aiming abilities, but if you’re rocking a screwdriver that’ll put the fear in three or more able-bodied crime-fighting professionals. You brought this upon yourself. Pierre Coriolan, a black man, was shot and killed last June outside his apartment in Montreal while going through a mental episode while holding a screwdriver. The same happened in New York City, when Saheed Vassel brandished a pipe like it was a gun, officers rushed out of their cars without issuing commands or orders of surrender and began shooting without knowledge of whether the item was a gun or not.
Don’t run while unarmed
The key is how you’re unarmed. Your black body is scary enough to white folks, so don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t feel fear and run due to the idea of being killed. Do away with that human emotion shit and stay in one place. Learn from Stephon Clark who fit a description back in March, and ran away from officers before being shot up in his own grandmother’s backyard. The same happened to a running Walter Scott in South Carolina, who was stopped, shot, and killed for a nonfunctional brake light by Michael Slager.
Don’t be scared
Don’t play with toy guns
If you don’t have a badge, you shouldn’t be holding anything that remotely resembles a gun, NRA member or not. You aren’t a trained de-escalating cop here. Plastic or no, you’re liable to frighten an officer skilled in the ability to spot lethal situations. John Crawford had a BB gun borrowed from an Ohio Walmart, and was shot and killed just for playing with said gun. Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was also gunned down by an experienced cop, even tho they received warnings that the “gun” was probably a toy. Just be a regular, no gun playing citizen.
Don’t own a legal gun
See the “comply with orders” section above involving Philando Castile.
Don’t sit in public
Because you wouldn’t want to intimidate a Starbucks manager.
Poor, middle class, or rich, you’re all the same if you drive anything above a Ford Pinto. Blacks are about 30 percent more likely to be pulled over by police than whites according to Bureau of Justice statistics, so it came as no surprise that even legendary comedian, Chris Rock tweeted a series of incidences of being stopped while black. Sam Dubbose in 2015 was fatally shot during a 2015 traffic stop. And Sandra Bland made the mistake of changing lanes without signaling before ending up dead. Hell, I’d say try a bicycle, but a Utah man in Salt Lake city was stopped for riding one and ran before being gunned down by two officers.
Don’t ride bicycles
It’s what they’re hoping for, right?...
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Noel Ransome on Twitter.