After Ferguson: Here’s The Talk That Needs to Happen

By on Nov 26, 2014 in Parenting | 0 comments

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By now you’ve heard about the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. While several folks in Ferguson took the decision HARD, gathering in the streets to express their anger and rage, I’ve been trying to get a handle on exactly how I feel.

via NBC News.

via NBC News.

Based on our Nation’s history, based on the fact that police officers are rarely held accountable in the deaths of people of color, and based on my own gut instinct, I knew the Grand Jury would probably refuse to indict Wilson.

Still, the news hurt. 

Like most of you, I spent Monday night watching as Ferguson went up in flames. While TV cameras flashed chaotic scenes of people breaking into shops, looting, and setting a police car on fire, I couldn’t even muster a damn bit of concern for those things.

Is it right to loot and burn business and destroy property? Certainly not. But watching people who look like you continually disrespected, murdered, and treated like second class citizens in our own country takes its toll.

Sometimes, emotions irrupt into actual fires. And while it may or may not be productive to act on rage, stores can be rebuilt, but dead teenagers cannot be brought back from the grave. MLK said it best: “A riot is the language of the unheard,” and maybe after Ferguson puts out the flames folks will start listening.

But until then…

In the wake of Mike Brown’s slaying and the Grand Jury decision you will no doubt read a slew of articles wondering if this latest injustice will kickstart a serious conversation about race in America. You’ll also likely see multiple articles about what we–parents of Black boys–will tell our sons.

Such articles popped up after both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were killed, and I’ve been asked to write a similar piece now. Honestly, though, I don’t want to tell my son sh-t about how he should deal with law enforcement or some vigilante stalking the streets.

My son is not the one who needs the lecture.

Here’s the thing. Whether I teach my son to be unapologetically Black,  know ALL of his rights as an American citizen, and move through this world as if he’s entitled to the same rights as his white peers; or if I teach him to be suspicious of police, go out of his way to be as non-threatening as possible, and strip away his Blackness until it’s JUST the color of his skin, it doesn’t matter.

America will view him how they want, never mind who he actually is. In the minds’ of many, my son is less innocent simply because he’s Black.

Time after time, people of color have to prove we’re not criminals, prove we’re worthy to be included in our own democracy, prove that we’ve earned everything we’ve achieved.

So, no.

The conversation that needs to go down has to happen with THEM, not us.

The powerful, the politicians, the police, and the white folks who cloak themselves in the privilege of not ever having to think about race, until they can’t possibly look away–THEY need the talk, not my son.

What’s it going to be America?

When are you going to get real about race? When are you going to sit down at your dinner tables and talk about how you clutch your purse when a person of color walks by, or how you view kids of color as menacing and aggressive, even when they’re just being kids?

When are you going to have that talk, America?

As for what I’ll tell MY son, I’m about two seconds away from channeling Brother Malcolm.

Malcolm X

Are you going to discuss Ferguson with your BrownBoyGenius? How do you plan to tackle it?

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