Race Convo with Kids
I saw this pic on Instagram and it spoke to me, thank you Blactivist.
There was another senseless killing by the police 9/16/2016, his name was Terence Crutcher. Say his name! Please read this NY Times article if interested in learning more about the man who committed no crime, but had a disabled vehicle, during the day, on a public street , posed no threat, had his hands up, and got shot and killed by the police.
In response to this incident, my sister, who has a 7 year old son, posted the following on Facebook:
I often wonder if my nieces and nephews recognize that they are Black. You may think that is silly, but I had no idea I was Black until a White person pointed it out to me in kindergarten. To me, I just existed. I was a person. I didn’t know there was a difference between me and any other person. Of course I noticed the difference in people’s skin color, but my mother’s skin color was different from mine, my brother’s skin color was different from mine (they are lighter) and we are family. So it didn’t dawn on me that I was “different.” I did notice however that the neighborhood this White girl, in 7th grade, called Niggersville had residents that looked like me, Black.
Each day as I watch the news and see more and more instances of police brutality against people who look like me and the people I love, I wonder, when do you talk about race to children. A black female high school student was dragged out of her chair by a police officer. Black teenagers were attacked by police officers while at a community pool. A 12 year old Black boy was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun. A 13 year old Black boy was shot and killed by the police, he had a BB gun. A 7 year old Black boy was handcuffed at school with ADHD. A 6 year old Black girl was handcuffed at school for taking candy. A 7 year old Black boy was handcuffed at school for crying. I can go on and on; these are just the incidents I remember off the top of my head and involve children. Black children are in a unique situation. For some reason society does not recognize they are CHILDREN! For some reason Blackness in youth does not equal innocence in the eyes of many.
Let me share a quick story. When I was in high school my mother lived in an apartment complex that had a pool. I went to the pool with a couple of my friends who were all Black. This White lady, who was not at the pool said from her balcony that we needed to leave because we didn’t live there. How she figured that was beyond me, but I suppose she felt Black people didn’t belong. She wanted to see my pass and I refused. We argued and she threatened to call the cops. I said call them because I know that I had permission to be there, my friends told me to stand down and we left. It bothers me that the White lady ruined my day because of her racist outlook on life. Is it fair that I had to leave? NO. Would it have been worth being tackled by the cops? No. I left the pool feeling worthless and reminded of Niggersville.
I am sure that many will read the incidents above and blame the victim… I should’ve just shown the lady who I did not know and who had no any authority my pass, the girl shouldn’t have spoken back and complied with the police, the teens at the pool should’ve left and respected authority, the boy shouldn’t have had a toy gun, the girl shouldn’t have stole candy, the boy shouldn’t have been crying, etc… How about the police should have sensitivity training and learn to deescalate a situation. How about toy guns are sold in Walmart or any other store where toys are sold. How about ask questions when entering a situation. No one ever sees a problem with the police and their tactics when it comes to Blackness, but let the police shoot a dog…
Should people have a healthy respect for the police? Probably. Does continually hearing and reading stories like the few I mentioned help the public respect and have faith in the police? NO. Does it teach the community to fear and hate the police? Yes. So what do we teach our children, who are engaged and more aware than any other generation before due to social media?
Do we teach them comply with the police? Apparently when you’re Black it can still cost your life. Do we tell them keep your hands visible? Apparently when you’re Black it can still cost your life. Do we tell them to stay silent? Apparently when you’re Black it can still cost your life. Do we tell them to record footage of the situation? Serves no purpose because even with evidence people still blame the victim when you’re Black. Do we teach them their rights as an American citizen? Apparently it doesn’t matter because the police do not care about their rights.
This is a very tough discussion to have, but we have to have a conversation to protect our children. Mind you this is not just a Black problem; it’s an American problem. Nothing makes me angrier than someone justifying injustice against Blacks by saying, “Well, white people are killed more often or white people pulled over more…” That is called a Red Herring, an attempt to distract from the issue at hand. Police brutality impacts us all and instead of us standing together as a people we are divided as a nation. Black people are disproportionately targeted. People are angrier about PEACEFUL protest than they are about police brutality against Black people.
This isn’t a topic that should be ignored or our children shielded from. It is the reality of today and we have to arm our children with the proper knowledge to enable them to survive. I don’t have any children and I’m not sure what to advise her. If I had to guess what I would do…
- I think I would talk to my child about each incident as it is reported and advise my child to stay clear of the police at all cost. In the event you need the police, make sure to communicate clearly and not give them a reason to shoot you because apparently they scare easily.
- I would advise my child as he/she sees an incident about to escalate to call me, his/her father, or a family member and leave unless detained.
- I would advise my child prior to their being an incident that could potentially involve the police to walk away.
- I also personally would never buy my child a toy gun, but that’s aside the point.
Although these words sound good, it bothers me to know I have to teach my child to back down even if they are in the right. I guess I can think of it as raising my child to be the bigger person because I know that many members of the police force are not trained to be that person.
Do you have discussions about race with your children? Do you have discussion on police brutality? Do you have discussion on any social issues? Feel free to share and responses can be anonymous.