Last week I was moved to tears when I saw the short film, “Get Home Safely.” It distills into 10 rules what is often referred to as “the Conversation” that African-American parents have with their children about encounters with the police. The goal of these rules and “the conversation” is survival. Here are the film’s rules:
“1. Be polite and respectful when stopped by the police. Keep your mouth closed.
2. Remember that your goal is to get home safely. If you feel that your rights have been violated, you and your parents have the right to file a formal complaint with your local police jurisdiction.
3. Don’t, under any circumstance, get into an argument with the police.
4. Always remember that anything you say or do can be used against you in court.
5. Keep your hands in plain sight and make sure the police can see your hands at all times.
6. Avoid physical contact with the police. No sudden movements, and keep hands out of your pockets.
7. Do not run, even if you are afraid of the police.
8. Even if you believe that you are innocent, do not resist arrest.
9. Don’t make any statements about the incident until you are able to meet with a lawyer or public defender.
10. Stay calm and remain in control. Watch your words, body language and emotions.”
Merely stating the rules is moving when you realize their importance. Even more moving is to see young African-American boys and girls stating the rules in the film.
The film was released earlier this year in response to the need for African-American communities to protect their children from police violence, justified or unjustified. A Native American woman told me that her parents gave her essentially the same rules when she was a girl and that she still follows these rules today in her 50’s.
These rules are also needed for all children and people, regardless of race and age. For example, recently in a Detroit suburb, a white 17-year old boy was uncooperative with a police officer who stopped the teen’s car for flashing bright lights at night. The incident escalated, and the teenager ended up being shot and killed by the police officer.
The film was produced by PBS station WFYI of Indianapolis, Indiana in partnership with the city’s Christian Theological Seminary and The SALT Project, a nonprofit film producer, and with Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Thanks to them for producing this important film.