I often wonder whether or not I’ll be the next Black boy killed on the news, murdered by the police for doing something “dangerous.”
As a kid, I never considered my skin color to be a part of me. My house is placed considerably far away from what I perceived as “the hood,” and my perception of Black identity was based on what I saw in movies like Juice and Menace II Society: a foundation of stereotypes that I separated myself from because of the area I inhabited. My upbringing was riddled with separation from a part of my culture.
Part of me wishes it could have stayed that way.
My body flung itself into the air, the smile on my face growing as the couch welcomed my tired body. I grabbed the remote and pointed it towards the TV. Success. The glaring red light changed to a serene blue and my mouth’s sides floated into the air in response to the TV’s infamous click and whirr. Unfortunately, the TV’s magical performance was interrupted by my mother, who apparently knew the machine’s song as well as I did.
“DONOVAN,” she yelled, turning on the lights in the back of the room. “You used all of your TV time earlier, so either turn it off or watch the news”
“I know” I groaned, annoyed by another of Mom’s daily reminders.
The crashes and honks of a quarreling cat and mouse were replaced with a more professional sound as my Mom sat near the desk behind our couch. The typing on her computer grew louder, a series of clicks varying in intensity and rhythm. Bored and attempting to go to sleep, I focused on them, hoping that they could drive me to a sense of drowsiness. But they couldn’t. One story passed. Another. I stared lifelessly at the different reporters until the image of a young boy faded onto the screen. Interested in the story behind the child’s picture, I turned up the TV’s volume.
The flashes of the following program illuminated my disconcerted face. A Black kid, only a year older than me, was killed by the police for playing with a toy gun. I could hear the sudden crash of a chair falling behind me. My neck shifted back as the sad and surprised breaths of my mother escaped her lips. Her glassy eyes were trained on me as if I was the one in danger. Maybe she thought I was. Maybe she saw that I would be.
These types of rude awakenings, the ones that show kids the horrible world around them, usually lead to a combination of comfort and reassurance. However, in Black households, the assurance of a peaceful and perfect world is replaced with confirmation of the opposite. This is commonly known as the talk.
And I hated it.
No kid wants to know what it means to be Black in America. No kid wants to have to dissuade others from believing their biased perceptions towards Black people. No kid wants to walk past those red and blue lights thinking that they could be the next Trayvon Martin. The next victim. But, as a Black kid, that knowledge was forced onto me.
Now, I understand why.
Even though the talk is unnerving, it’s a necessary conversation to have with children. Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of race and discriminatory policy, argues that these types of conversations “raise children who can express notions of racial equality, who can see racial disparities as a problem, and who can do their own small part to challenge this big problem of racism.”
Who knows, maybe there will be a time when no Black person has to have the talk with their kids. A time when we’re all equal.
The talk does introduce children to the cruel world around them but, in doing so, the conversation allows kids to adapt to their social climate and even attempt to improve it. If it wasn’t for the harsh conversations I had with my mother, my interactions could have put me in danger. It’s very possible that the talk saved me.
And maybe it’ll save my kids.
Who knows, maybe there will be a time when no Black person has to have the talk with their kids. A time when we’re all equal. But, until then, Black parents need to make their children aware of the racial injustices in America. Those jarring words could save a generation.