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When A Young Black Man Is Pulled Over By A White Cop, What Should He Do?

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The title of this diary is taken from a question asked by a male black student at forum held at Benedict College in Columbia, SC.  The student was directing his question to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.  And Sander’s answer didn’t come off well.

When a black male student asked Sanders how he should handle getting pulled over by a police officer, Sanders responded “respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”

He asked the progressive rabble rousing Vermont congressman, “If I’m your son, what advice would you give me next time I’m pulled over by a police officer?”

Sanders advised the youngin do his best to engage the police officer “in a polite way.”

Note: I have a soft spot for Bernie, and he is my number two choice for the nomination.

And to give you the rest of the quote:

The 78-year old Brooklyn native’s exact quotes were: “I would respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head, but I would also be very mindful of the fact that as a nation, we have got to hold police officers accountable for the actions that they commit.”

“I would be very cautious if you were my son in terms of dealing with that police officer, but I would also defend my rights and know my rights and make sure if possible that police officer’s camera is on what goes on.”

Now, the writer for The Root, Karu F. Daniels, says that that Joe Biden was asked a similar question by a black woman, and his answer was the following:

“If you were my daughter, you’d be a Caucasian girl and you wouldn’t be pulled over,” Biden said. “That’s what’s wrong.”

Getting more savvier with his remarks, the gaffe prone presidential hopeful tweeted out a clip of his answer.

“Institutional racism should no longer exist. As president, I’ll put forward change to help put an end to it,” he captioned the clip.

It is a much better answer than Sander’s.  But It doesn’t answer the “now” does it?  Or am I over reading this?  I probably am, but I have to admit that I don’t know if there is a good answer for the present until a Democrat gets into the White House.  It’s going to take Democrats gaining power and actually trying to deal with systemic racism.

But what do black people, especially young black men, do when a white cop pulls them over or stops them?

I’m white, so I haven’t had to deal with this issue or really sit down and think of this happening every day in America.  And I suppose that was the whole point of that young man’s question to Bernie Sanders.  To get a white guy to TRY and be in a black man’s shoes when you have a run in with the police.   At this moment, I have no good answer that for, except electing people who will tear down the racism in our society and legal system.  

It just feels inadequate to me to throw out that reply.

I have to admit that I have to try and be a little more sensitive when it comes to issues of race and racism.  I got some justifiable criticism for an earlier diary, and I am trying to be a little more thoughtful.  It doesn’t always work.  And I was reading Denise Oliver Velez’s diary today about white politicians attempts to gain support from black voters.  And there were multiple examples in her diary that made me go, “Oh shit.  I didn’t know that.”

I suppose the only good thing I can say is that I am glad I am not running for office.  I’d have botched the answer to that excellent question.