Actor LeVar Burton explains his ritual to prevent being shot by police

July 3, 2013

LeVar Burton screenshot

Actor and director LeVar Burton explained Monday on CNN that he follows a particular procedure every time he is stopped by police to avoid a potentially deadly confrontation. He removes his hat and sunglasses, rolls down his window, and puts out his hands to show he is not armed.

“I do that because I live in America,” Burton added.

He’s not exactly known for bad behavior, but even the former host of the children’s show Reading Rainbow, and Star Trek the Next Generation actor, fears he will be mistreated by police because of his skin color.

Author Tim Wise, on the other hand, recalled that as a 23-year-old he once locked himself outside of his car. While he was trying to break into his car with a coat-hangar, he was approached by a police officer. Rather than question why Wise was attempting to break into a vehicle, the officer casually informed him he was “breaking into the car the wrong way” and offered to help him.

“The cop was trying to help me break in,” Wise remarked. While the officer was undoubtedly not actually trying to help him break into someone else’s car, the cop did not hesitate to assume Wise’s innocence. “Now, there is not a black man in this country, 23 years of age, for whom that would have been the reaction… Basically, what my mom told me was, ‘Be nice to cops.’ She didn’t say, ‘Don’t move your hands because you’re going to get shot.’”

Such anecdotes are hardly isolated incidences. All in all, the majority of Caucasians do not live in fear of the police, while even the most law-abiding African Americans realize that a traffic stop is a wild card that could result in a night in prison, or worse.

Watch CNN interview below:


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