Image by: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

By: Cheyanne M. Daniels/Originally published on My Champion Valley

Chaz Beasley can still remember the first time he was pulled over by law enforcement. 

He was young, driving his cousin home in his 1997 Ford Contour — maybe just a little too fast, he said — when the cops pulled up behind him. 

“The police never told us why we were stopped. They just used their flashlights to search the vehicle,” recalled Beasley, a former state representative for North Carolina.

After a quick search, the cops told Beasley he could go on his way. But Beasley will never forget his response to seeing those flashing lights in his rearview mirror.

“The first thing that I did was what my grandfather told me to do: I turned the lights on in my car and I had my hands on the steering wheel,” said Beasley. “I hate to say it this way, but in many ways it was very much like training that they had given me.”

That training — which implores young Black Americans to keep their lights on and hands on the steering wheel if stopped by police, as well as to be courteous and always be clear about what they’re doing before they make any movement — is common among Black families. Often referred to as “the talk,” it has drawn increased awareness in the wake of Tyre Nichols’s death — and now many Black Americans are hoping that renewed attention will lead to long-desired reforms.

Nichols was pulled over at a traffic stop and beaten by five former Memphis Police Department officers back in January. He later died as a result of his injuries. The 29-year-old’s death sparked outrage across the country and fueled new calls for law enforcement accountability.

President Biden addressed the issue during his annual State of the Union speech last week, acknowledging Nichols’s parents, who were in attendance, and noting that “the talk” isn’t something most white parents need to have with their children.

“Most of us in here have never had to have ‘the talk’ — ‘the talk’ — that brown and Black parents have had to have with their children,” Biden said. “Beau, Hunter, Ashley — my children — I never had to have the talk with them. I never had to tell them, ‘If a police officer pulls you over, turn your interior lights on right away. Don’t reach for your license. Keep your hands on the steering wheel.’” 

Biden’s speech resonated with Black Americans watching last week. Many expressed hope that hearing a president so openly acknowledge “the talk” could lead to reform.

“I’ve never heard a @POTUS reference “the talk” in a #SOTU,” tweeted Colmon Elridge, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party. “My son texted me from his room ‘I hope @JoeBiden talking about that makes us safer.’”

The mention of “the talk” also spread across party lines, with former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele speaking about his own experience of “the talk” with his sons on MSNBC’s The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart.

“It wasn’t just about police encounters, it was about life encounters,” Steele said. “These are real-life stories and real-life experiences that continue for a lot of African Americans today.”

Conversations about “the talk,” and how its necessity for Black families underscored the need for reforms, picked up after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Many Black families shared that they have had this conversation more than once with their children. 

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