Son, I know you really like that hoodie, but you have to keep the hood down when you're walking around town. Do you know why?
What, that wasn't how The Talk went in your house? Oohhhhhh, you're thinking of that OTHER Talk, the one about the birds and bees and if a person really loves another person... That's the Talk from my childhood, the one that ends (for girls at least) with a box of sanitary supplies being left surreptitiously on the bed while kid's at school.
I am woefully unprepared for this new one I have to learn to give. All of you who've ever been a part of a Talk like this, please help me out because my parents didn't prepare me for this. Step inside and let me tell you why...
I'm a blonde, blue-eyed mother of two. My eldest is a tall, beautiful blue-eyed redhead. My youngest, however, is a tall (5'1), dark and handsome boy with brown eyes, curly hair and chocolate skin.
My son is going to be a tall, athletic man. As he prepares to enter 4th grade, already he is taller than some of the middle school kids. He is a fantastic soccer player, and also loves to run and swim. He loves to laugh and joke around with friends and family, cares deeply about fairness and justice, and tries to take care of his friends and of the world around him. He's unabashedly loud and can be rather stubborn at times. He covers up his insecurity with an outspoken brashness that isn't always understood by outsiders, and when he's being spoken to if he's done wrong, he has a tendency to cover his mouth, giggle, and look away. All perfectly normal things for a 9 year old, right?
Mr. Brillig and I are afraid some of those traits are going to get him killed one day, and we also know that if he was white, we wouldn't be so worried. Most people don't fear a tall, handsome, athletic white teen walking towards them on the street. Many people clutch their bags and panic when a tall, handsome, athletic black teen comes close.
When the Zimmerman verdict was announced, we realized we were going to have to carefully train our boy to stay safe. With events in Ferguson, it's become obvious that 9 years old isn't too young to cover #HandsUpDon'tShoot. Here's a conversation one friend of mine had while carpooling on August 14th:
Friend's son: Why is that man on the radio crying?So I have a short list of things I suspect are important to cover. How does one go about doing this without scaring the f-ck out of a little boy?
Friend: Because a policeman killed a black man in his town.
Friend's son: Again?!?
Carpool ridealong: Why did they kill him?
Keep your hands out of your pockets when talking to cops/people in authority.Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and siblings of black children, help me out. What do I need to know to give my son the education I don't know how to give him?
Don't wear a hoodie on your head while walking outside.
Keep music turned down low.
Look people in the eye when they're talking to you, but don't look aggressive.
Don't laugh, giggle, cover your mouth, or fidget while anyone in authority talks to you.
Obey the police but try to make sure there are non-POC witnesses.