Time for Lessons on “Living While Black”

Two days ago, I wrote about Trayvon Martin’s killing and my fears for my own little guy. I’ve been reading about it obsessively, as I suspect many people have been. Adam Weinstein’s explainer at Mother Jones has my go-to stop for the latest developments. Sally Kohn has a good summary of the implicit bias research here. There’s been the news that the Sanford, Florida police chief might lose his job. Of course, there’s been the “Million Hoodie March,” and more protests are planned in other cities.

Here’s the piece, though, that wrecked me, and which I’ve printed out for my own reference: one mother’s explanation of what she tries to teach her 12-year-old son to keep him from being shot. As she explains:

It’s tough finding the balance between encouraging a black boy to storm the world with confidence and at the same time to fear for his life. But that’s what I must do. I know that at this very moment some have just sucked their teeth in disgusted disbelief and decided that I’m exaggerating. I wish that I was. I’m not. If I were, Trayvon would be alive….

Maybe I shouldn’t keep reminding Drew about the risks that come with being black and male in America. It’s just the best that I can do under the circumstances. …

[M]y “proverbs.” That’s what my son calls my pithy reminders of how he should dress, act, speak and respond to authority. He’s committed most of them to memory.

“Ann is a woman, not a conjunction.” “Make inside voice your choice.” “Disobedience is dangerous.” And of course, “You must always look like a prospect, not a suspect.”… “Never run in a neighborhood.”

I hate this idea, but it might be time to start the “living while black” lessons for our little man. 

Comments

Radio program I was listening to this morning described a phenomenon they called "The Talk". That time when parents of Black males sit them down and tell them how to not get targeted, not get hurt, not get arrested... how to lay low, not provoke, etc. Meanwhile, as the parent of a teenaged white male, I have noticed in the past two years how his identity is being culturally shaped as privileged even while his household is critically and consciously thought out and constructed.... how to change both of these scenarios? A larger societal consciousness is definitely needed. How do we get there?

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