So, it’s the second blog, and as I told you before, I’d mention often, that there is etiquette or protocol in almost everything we encounter. As an Etiquette Consultant, I come to you thinking that I have the answers about the correct approach on how to present the best version of yourself in any situation. Except that recently, I watched a movie, titled “American Son”, where an estranged interracial couple spend all night in a police precinct, awaiting answers to their son’s whereabouts. While doing so, they talk through their perspectives in raising their bi-racial son in this country where racial tension is extremely high.
SPOILER ALERT!!! Their son dies, shot by an officer.
Now even though this story doesn’t go quite like the tragic “white officer kills unarmed black male” events that have certainly become our countries norm, there is a fair share of racial discrimination throughout this film’s narrative. Watching the mother’s role, in this movie, played by Kerry Washington, you see a very strong intelligent black woman, a concerned, worried, terrified mother, who is belittled, insulted, discriminated against, and deals with strong cynicism by a white police officer. You watch her concern grow into anger, as she’s told to “calm down”, “relax” and “sit tight”. And throughout the night of waiting for answers, becoming erratic, and rightfully so, because of how she’s being handled.
When I talk to people about what my business is about, I shut down the idea that etiquette is about telling people what to do, or how to act. My goal is to help you present the best version of you in any given situation. But after watching this movie, I can say that I am not clear on how to advise on how to present the best version of yourself in this circumstance. Let’s be honest, all of that goes out the window when your loved one is missing, and you’re being mistreated. So, what is the proper protocol? How do you act? What does calm look like? What do you do? Let’s forget for a moment that race is a factor. The reality doesn’t change, nor does the behavior change.
I really don’t have any thought provoking tips. What I do know, is that you can get more flies with honey than what you can with vinegar. Sometimes, being calm helps, not shouting, or fighting, but communicating in a way that gets you answers, making all parties feel safe. I’m not saying to bend on how you feel, or who are, or what you believe, but consider the trade off when you are the one needing answers.
Let’s throw race back in and now I’m also reminded of “The Talk”, which is a reality for black families today. Unfortunately, there is protocol there. So, if there is something, I can provide here for you, from my thoughts on this movie and me raising a black child, it’s how to survive if stopped by law enforcement:
1. Be polite and respectful when stopped by the police. Keep your mouth closed.
2. The 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 jurisdiction.
3. Don’t get into an argument with the police.
4. Always remember that anything you say or do can be held against you in court.
5. Keep your hands in plain sight and make sure the police can always see your hands.
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 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 a public defender.
10. Stay calm and remain in control. Watch your words and your body language and emotions.
I don’t like not being able to provide answers in an area where I am certified , but I think there are situations and circumstances in life where we don’t have all the answers, and the only thing you can do is attempt to survive.