The Talk, when you’re raising young black men

I know.  This isn’t news.  I’ve even thought about it with my own children, two of whom are young black men.

But my heart is in my throat because Trayvon Martin could be my son.  And while we talk about race and color and perception and prejudice and difference and history — and our common humanity — a lot in our house, there’s still so much more we have to do.

Corey Dade:

I am a black man. This is one of the realities I have lived. My parents prepared me for it.

To be sure, my parents taught me to transcend matters of race, interrogate them when necessary, and even ignore them where possible. However, they also gave me “The Talk.”

For other boys coming of age, parents may end “The Talk” after a lecture about sex, drugs, alcohol or Internet porn. The rite for black boys often is more rigorous: We’re also drilled on a set of rules designed to protect us against suspicions too often associated with the color of our skin.

“There is still a tendency to see you first as ‘here comes a black man,’ so we teach our black children how to handle other people’s problems,” says professor William E. Cross Jr., of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

From “Florida Teen’s Killing: A Parent’s Greatest Fear” by Corey Dade.  He listed 5 rules:

  1. Never leave a store without a shopping bag
  2. Never loiter outside, anywhere
  3. Never go anywhere alone (but travelling in a group of black men is dangerous too)
  4. Never talk back to police … and never, ever, reach into your pocket
  5. Never doubt trouble may strike anytime, anywhere

Cosby Hunt:

The detail about Trayvon’s death that stands out for me is that he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. My youngest son, Ellington, who turns 3 tomorrow, wears his Batman hoodie with the ears as much as a he can — sometimes to bed if we’ll let him. Freeman, our oldest, prefers to battle his bad guys as Captain America.

Every night at dinner my wife and I ask the boys what their favorite part of the day was. As they get older, the dinner table may also need to serve as a place for cautionary tales.

We did not plan to give them advice about hoodies, but now I see we’ll need to have that talk, too. We will have say, “You know how you used to wear your hooded Batman sweatshirt when you wanted to fight the bad guys as a kid? Well, now that you’re older, some people will be confused and think that you are the bad guys if they see your hoodie and your skin color. It’s silly and wrong that anyone would think that you are the bad guys, but we don’t want you to be hurt. We don’t want the real bad guys or even some guy playing superhero to hurt you.”

My wife and I don’t dread having this talk, but we do need to make sure that we have it.

From “Trayvon Martin: A Tragic Death And A Lesson Learned” by Cosby Hunt.