The Talk

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

YOUNG

BLACK

MAN

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:

  1. Take some time to educate yourself, not just on my history (there’s a lot) but on yours. One begot another
  2. Understand that you will encounter uncomfortable truths. Please do not let that be a deterrent to your learning
  3. 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
  4. Understand that this will take a LOT of time and concerted efforts.
  5. Educate your kids. They are the future.
  6. 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.

-Kwame

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3 Replies to “The Talk”

  1. Thank you for sharing Kwame. I have always taught my daughter that God made every person different and unique and people should be loved and accepted for their differences. She is 10 years old now, and i am learning with her about the Civil Rights Movement as part of her 5th grade curriculum. I learned about it on grade school myself, but it means so much more now. I sat with her and showed her the video of what happened to George Floyd and we talked about how wrong it was and what should have been done. I grew up in a small town with parents who were born in the early 40’s and a father with engrained prejudices. I remember correcting my dad when he told stories about “this black guy”. I would say, “Dad, color has nothing to do with it”. I am happy to see that my daughter has grown up to be a loving and empathetic young lady. I hate that there is still ignorance and people full of hate in this world.

  2. Qwame, you’re amazing and I am so happy to know you. I’m sorry for what you and all black people have to go through their entire lives. As sad as this recent event is I pray that it is going to open people’s minds to love, understanding and acceptance of all people of colour. I have never been racist but honestly didn’t realize that there had to be a talk amongst families of colour about how to be safe and to survive in this closeminded world. It truly makes me sad. Let’s teach our kids love and acceptance. So nice to see you this morning my friend 🙏💛

    1. Hi Renee! It’s nice to “meet” you. I realize that we’ve never met and I don’t know your racial or ethnic identity. Regardless, I hope that you’ll allow me to use this space to respond to you directly as a fellow member of the NP community. I, too, appreciate Kwame’s honesty here, and as a white person I share your sadness as my awareness of anti-black racism grows. I also feel compelled to point out that racism manifests not only in our interpersonal relationships, but shows up institutionally and structurally – through inequitable access to housing, education, and healthcare, as well as in countless other systems that actively push down people of color while benefitting their white counterparts.

      Basically, even though I may believe that my actions “have never been racist” I think I and my white peers each have a responsibility to notice the ways in which we have benefitted from, and therefore contributed to, racist structures of oppression. 

      Personally, I know that it’s uncomfortable to internalize this idea, but I know that that discomfort will never come close to the pain built up over a lifetime of experiencing systemic racial injustice. See #2 on Kwame’s list above 🙂

      Teaching love and acceptance is important, and I’m learning that it’s only part of the fight to dismantle racism. 

      I’m on my own path to learn more and hold myself more accountable to doing this work, and I welcome the opportunity to continue this conversation, Renee. Thank you for being here!

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