By the age of 11, Cameron Welch had memorised the list of warnings his mum had given to him through the years whenever he was walking out the door: Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t put your hoodie on. Don’t be outside without a shirt on. Check in with your people, even if you’re down the street.
A week ago, the 18-year-old from Houston shared the list in a powerful TikTok video that now has over 10.4 million views. “Jus some unwritten rules my mom makes me follow as a young black man #blacklivesmatter,” Welch wrote in the caption.
The checklist Welch recites is extensive, covering everything from how to behave in a store so a shop clerk won’t accuse you of stealing to clothes you shouldn’t wear while driving if you don’t want to be pulled over by the police:
– Don’t put your hands in your pockets.
– Don’t put your hoodie on.
– Don’t be outside without a shirt on.
– Check in with your people, even if you’re down the street.
– Don’t be out too late.
– Don’t touch anything you’re not buying.
– Never leave the store without a receipt or a bag, even if it’s just a pack of gum.
– Never make it look like there’s an altercation between you and someone else.
– Never leave the house without your ID.
– Don’t drive with a wifebeater on.
– Don’t drive with a du-rag on.
– Don’t go out in public with a wifebeater or a du-rag.
– Don’t ride with the music too loud.
– Don’t stare at a Caucasian woman.
– If a cop stops you randomly and starts questioning you, don’t talk back, just compromise.
– If you ever get pulled over, put your hands on the dashboard and ask if you can get your license and registration out.
Welch said that hearing about George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last week pushed him to speak out and share what it’s like to live with such a heightened awareness of the police.
“In this moment in our country, it was necessary for me to use my voice, so I put out the video,” he told HuffPost. “I wanted people to hear and understand the real truth of a Black man’s daily experience.”
In the comments under the TikTok post, many Black and Latino teens said they’d memorised similar checklists from years of being lectured by their parents.
Parents raising Black children commented, too.
“Saving this video for my future son,” one TikTok user told Welch.
“His future shouldn’t be like this,” Welch wrote back.
In another recent video, Welch talks about how his friends don’t say “I’ll see you later” after hanging out at each other’s houses and heading home. Instead, they say, “Stay safe.”
“Every Black man has that feeling of, ’Am I gonna come home today?” he says in the clip.
Welch said he hopes the viral videos open more people’s eyes to the unfair reality of everyday life for so many Black Americans.
“I want people to see that we need change and that no one should have to live like this,” he said.