I remember growing up and hearing about parents having “the talk” with their kids. I’d see it on TV, usually instigated by a youth who’s curious about where they come from and how it happened. The birds and the bees, all that good stuff. “The talk” is a rite of passage, signalling that one has come of age and painting the picture around love, relationships, and adulthood. I couldn’t wait to have it; it would be so cool to have it happen just like on TV. Unfortunately, it did not.
There are two reasons why my talk diverged from what I thought it would be. For starters, my family is deeply religious. We’re talking the “only dating AFTER you’re married” type. The birds and the bees attended Sunday School and did communion type religious (obviously this is a joke, but not far off). More importantly, though, my talk was different because I was a
You see, my talk didn’t cover sex and relationships. It covered perception; how will others see you as a black man. Like “the talk”, there were do’s and don’ts:
- DO respect your peers
- DO your homework and excel
- DO your work, do it well, and work hard
- DO NOT make sudden movements if you are pulled over
- DO NOT remove your hand from the steering wheel if you’re pulled over
- DO NOT run towards someone by yourself while it’s dark outside. Cross the street
- DO NOT walk/run behind someone by yourself while it’s dark outside. Cross the street
- DO NOT run alone when it’s dark out
Like “the talk”, my talk was a rite of passage; it was a signal that I had reached the age where I had to learn how my world worked. My father had the talk with me, and unless things change, I will have this talk with my children. My heart breaks for that day.
A few of you have reached out to me with words of support and questions on how we can do better. I love you for that, I appreciate you for that, and I will leave you with a few thoughts:
- Take some time to educate yourself, not just on my history (there’s a lot) but on yours. One begot another
- Understand that you will encounter uncomfortable truths. Please do not let that be a deterrent to your learning
- Understand that you might feel guilty for not knowing as much as you think you should. That would be like me feeling guilty about not knowing as much about Friends as I probably should. It was not an active part of my life
- Understand that this will take a LOT of time and concerted efforts.
- Educate your kids. They are the future.
- Don’t just speak your conscious. Vote.
Where you can start:
Watch “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike” on Netflix. There are some very interesting and nuanced points in a medium that’s easier to digest.
Visit the Obama Foundation online (www.obama.org) and read the most recent post on “This Shouldn’t be Normal”. There are a ton of resources there, useful articles and book recommendations to get you started.
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