NBA star LeBron James has had the talk with his two young sons. No, not that talk; they’re not old enough for that yet. James said he had the other talk, the one Black men have to engage in with their sons in these times of racial profiling.
The one about dealing with cops. That conversation very well could save their lives.
That mega superstar, mega wealthy James has spoken to his sons — LeBron Jr., 10, and 7-year-old Bryce — about the dangers of an interaction with law enforcement is a disheartening statement about where we are in this country.
But James, the Cleveland Cavaliers leader, knows all-too-well the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old from Cleveland who was gunned down in November by police as he held a toy gun.
James said to the Hollywood Reporter that his kids cannot bring their neon green and orange toy guns out of the house.
He’s afraid for his kids’ lives, as are all Black parents.
“The talk,” James said, “is, ‘You be respectful; you do what’s asked, and you let them do their job, and we’ll take care of the rest after. You don’t have to boast and brag and automatically think it’s us against the police.’”
The world’s best player added: “I’ve had one or two encounters with the police in my life that were nothing. But sometimes you just got to shut up. It’s that simple. Just be quiet and let them do their job and go on about your life and hopefully things go well.”
That’s one way of looking at it, not the full way. The reality is that if LeBron James gets randomly stopped, police will likely ask for his autograph and if they could take a selfie with him. He lives in a different, isolated world from most Black men, even as he admirably tries to stay connected and, even more admirably, be a voice for justice for African-American males.
But the talk with our young Black males has to include the importance of knowing the law and what rights they have when confronted by police. According to the American Civil Liberties Union
– You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
– You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
– If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
– You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
– Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.
Understanding those rights empowers and helps bridge the gap between the obedience James speaks of and pride that often is challenged by demeaning cops. Understanding those rights should minimize tension.
But being nice to an officer does not guarantee he will do right by you. However, that’s not the reality for James. Unless James acts wild and crazy, the official will grin like a schoolgirl with a crush and brag to his colleagues about his encounter.
With James’ boys and all other Black males who are not famous, there are no guarantees. We’ve found that out in too many sad cases.