On Monday night, PBS premiered “The Talk: Race in America,” a documentary from director/producer Sam Pollard that examines the conversation that inevitably takes place in most Black and Latino families about how to survive an encounter with police.
The two-hour film highlights six stories, each helmed by a different director, each offering different perspectives and opinions on the talk.
“I really wasn’t having these conversations with my kids because we wasn’t in that type of neighborhood,” Samaria Rice says in the documentary.
Rice is the mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by Cleveland police as he played with a toy gun. “I always told them to cooperate and [to] do what you’re told, but I just really didn’t have to have that type of talk because we really wasn’t in that type of neighborhood.”
‘The wrong talk’
Another featured couple, whose son was killed by a police officer in New Jersey, had the same thought.
“We had the wrong talk,” said the father of 30-year-old Abdul Kamal, who was unarmed when he was shot multiple times by police in Irvington after he allegedly broke into his estranged wife’s apartment.
“I came from the ghetto, the projects. My son never lived in the projects. We thought because we made a certain amount of money that we could protect our children,” said Mohammed Kamal.
“As a parent, I thought I was doing the right thing. I gave him a false concept, actually. ‘You are just as good as any other…’ No you’re not. No you’re not, son.”
Also in the film is the case of 28-year-old Oscar Ramirez, who was unarmed when he was fatally shot five times in 2014 by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in Paramount, California.
Another segment features a woman who had guns drawn on her by Chicago police and lived to tell the tale. Pastor Catherine Brown describes in vivid detail how a simple traffic stop ended up with her being beaten by officers in front of her own home.
Bridging the stories are impactful anecdotes from actress Rosie Perez, “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, rapper Nas and one of the film’s directors, John Singleton.
“The Talk” attempts to balance things out by also covering efforts made by law enforcement to deal with racial bias.
Viewers are taken into racial sensitivity and simulator classes at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, where officers are challenged on their prejudices, snap judgments and use of deadly force.
However, a line from retired NYPD Captain Eric Adams appears to render all of the police training moot, if true. Addressing the mentality of officers when deciding whether or not to use deadly force, Adams said the motto is most often, “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.”
Check your local PBS station for future airings of the documentary.