President Joe Biden was on fire at his Tuesday night State of the Union address. He skillfully jabbed at Republicans, weathered heckling from the tacky congresswoman from Georgia, and even attempted to bring unity to the two parties. But, one of his more genuinely inclusive and heartfelt moments was his mention of “the talk” during his introduction to the parents of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols was viciously beaten by five Memphis police officers during a routine traffic stop on Jan. 7. The 29-year-old father died in the hospital three days later.
“The talk” is a conversation Black and brown parents are forced to have with their children when they’re old enough to be seen by white people as a threat. That can begin as young as eight years old in many cases.
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The talk is to help Black and brown kids understand that when they leave their homes to walk to the store, attend church, play at a playground, or drive home from a skatepark, their lives are at risk—and the threat, in many cases, is the organization designed to protect them: law enforcement itself.
Biden brilliantly not only acknowledged the reality of “the talk,” but personalized it by admitting that it didn’t apply to him or his children.
“I’ve never had to have the talk with my children — Beau, Hunter, and Ashley — that so many Black and Brown families have had with their children,” Biden said. “If a police officer pulls you over, turn on your interior lights. Don’t reach for your license. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Imagine having to worry like that every day in America.”
Biden said when he asked Nichols’ mom, RowVaughn Wells, how she has the courage to soldier on. She told the president her son “was a beautiful soul and something good will come of this.”
“Imagine how much courage and character that takes,” Biden said.
He continued to say that all Americans have a right to violence-free neighborhoods and “law enforcement who earn the community’s trust.” Adding that it’s everyone’s right to have “our children come home safely.”
Then Biden, obviously in an effort to placate the right and more centrist Democrats, said that although police must be “held accountable,” they also need more “training.” Which requires more funding, and most Black Americans would agree that the last thing law enforcement needs is more money to reinforce the bad behavior of killing Black citizens.
That aside, Biden did sign an executive order last year for “federal officers banning chokeholds, restricting no-knock warrants, and other key elements of the George Floyd Act,” but true police reform will not happen until Congress passes the full George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“Shame on us if we don’t use his tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed,” Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing Nichols’ family, said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Biden ended his address by asking that those assembled “rise to this moment” and “come together to finish the job on police reform.”
“Do something,” he said.
That “something” is getting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act signed into law. And considering defunding the police.