My week with Ralph
Open the gates

The Talk

The Talk.008Wherever the investigation into Trayvon Martin's death comes out, one thing is certain.

Because of what happened to Trayvon, thousands -- maybe millions -- of African-American parents have had to have "the Talk" with their kids.

In researching OtherWise, I sought out the advice of a good friend who happens to be Black.

As an executive at two of the largest companies in the U.S., she could afford to live wherever she chose, to send her son to whatever prep school would offer him the best education. 

And yet even she found it necessary, when he was preparing to leave for college, to warn him, “Now don’t you forget where you come from or you’ll be hurt.”

She felt it necessary to remind him that he was Black and that some people would be suspicious of him – or even rude towards him – because of it.

ABC News reports 60 percent of Black people are aware of being followed when they’re shopping.  The practice is so common in some high-end malls that it has a name – “shopping while Black.”  And there’s a mobile version of it too, called “driving while Black,” in historically white neighborhoods.

Apparently, it even extends to "walking while Black" in some neighborhoods.

One study discovered that, from 1980 to 2007, African Americans were arrested on drug charges three to six times more frequently than white people, even though black and white people engage in drug offenses—possession and sales—at roughly comparable rates.

"Because black drug offenders are the principal targets in the ‘war on drugs'," the study explains, "the burden of drug arrests and incarceration falls disproportionately on black men and women, their families and neighborhoods.”

Hence, "the Talk."

Maybe it's time for white parents to have a talk with their own kids.

Studies show that white parents don’t talk to their kids about race.  They want their kids to be colorblind so they avoid discussing skin color or anything associated with the sad history of Blacks in America. 

As a result, the understanding most white adults have of the Black experience is picked up haphazardly and polluted with stereotypes. 

By contrast, most parents have no trouble discussing gender stereotypes from the earliest age.  They tell their kids women can be doctors and lawyers or bricklayers and plumbers. But what Blacks experience? It's too uncomfortable to talk about.

The really uncomfortable truth is that race still matters in America. It's not right.

And studies show that talking about the realities of discrimination and racial prejudice in an age appropriate way actually helps children learn to get along with others who are different than them. 

That's the talk white parents should be having with their kids. 



The comments to this entry are closed.