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Don Cheadle has had a long history of encounters with law enforcement, ranging from some that are cumbersome to others that are downright unsettling. Whilst appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the actor best known for his role as Iron Man sidekick James Rhodes in the MCU said he’s been stopped by police “more times than I can count.”
Reflecting on his experiences, Cheadle recalls how his parents prepared him from an early age how to interact with cops. Though the actor is thankful for this advice, he does lament the fact that many children growing up in America have to face this ugly reality at such an early age, while their white peers grow up more or less oblivious.
“I think a lot of Black people have the story of how their parents had cautioned them about how to comport themselves when they come into contact with law enforcement and the rules of how to just make sure that you can come home and be safe and what you had to do,” Cheadle told Fallon. “So, unfortunately, that was something that was put into our minds very early.”
Born to black parents in a “predominantly black neighborhood,” Cheadle confessed he rarely came into contact with the law during his youth. However, that changed when his family decided to move to the mostly white suburbs.
“We were the minority there, it was very different,” he said. “That’s when I first—that when a lot of bullying started when I was at school and definitely predicated on race, and that’s when it started to be clear that, yeah, the cops were not on Team Don and there was a different treatment.”
When Cheadle later moved to Los Angeles, then under the jurisdiction of LAPD Chief Darryl Gates, encounters with police officers become somewhat of a routine for him. The actor maintained that cops always said he “fit the description,” and has had at least one put a gun to his head before.
The interview, which took place a few days ago, adds to the ongoing civil rights protests that have swept the country in response to the death of George Floyd, an African American victim of racially-motivated police brutality. Aside from Don Cheadle, other celebrities of color have also related their negative experiences with law enforcement to help foster understanding.