Having the Talk With My Son
Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the Oakland Tribune. It was for Hoodies: Why parents of teens of color have the 'survival' talk? in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin.
Since this article was published, I’ve had more time to reflect on what it means to be the mother of a Black young man growing up in America. I chose early on to move to the suburbs to raise my son in what I thought was a safer environment. The consequence of raising my son in a predominantly white area was it forced me to have the “color talk” with my son at a very early age.
Do you know how difficult it is to explain to your black child that he is different and will get treated differently for the wrong reasons? To explain to him that other races are scared of him because of who they think he is or could be. To explain to him the correct way to act when he is questioned by the police... the correct way to conduct himself in a store since the store manager will probably have his eyes glued to his every move. These conversations have meant that my son has long been aware of how growing up in America might be different if he weren’t black.
I wonder-- how long will mothers of Black boys need to continue to have this talk with their kids? When will it be OK for my son to just be himself and not be looked at with negative connotations because of the color of his skin?
I’ve thought times were getting better-- we now have a First Family in the White House who resembles us, so that has to count for something, right? Then you turn on the TV and find out an unarmed black kid was killed for little more than looking suspicious.
I wonder if Trayvon’s mom had the talk with him. Did she explain that if someone stops you and asks what you are doing you should remove your hood, speak in a non-threatening tone and keep your hands in sight, or else you may get shot?
When will my child's only concern be what college he is going to and how many scholarships will he get instead of what type of non-threatening attire he should wear and when? When will my child be able to wear anything he pleases and not be looked at suspiciously? When will my child be able to walk pass a police officer, and not be nervous?
Every time I think we’re moving forward together as a nation, an incident takes place that makes me realize maybe we haven’t come so far. So I will continue to have this talk with my black child and will encourage other mothers to have “The Talk” with their black sons as well.
How do you talk with your children about race?