But it might not be “The Talk” you’re thinking.
“When we drive to At-a-lanta on Saturday, are we going to see that police again? Remembah last time we went to Georgia we see’d a police?”
“Well, we will probably see at least one police car because it’s a long drive. But it probably won’t be the same police officer we saw last time.”
“Yeah, but when we see’d the police the last time I was SO scared and I thought, ‘Oh no, oh no, are we gonna go to jail?’”
“You don’t have to be scared, baby. I will drive us safely and follow the rules. We won’t go to jail. You know, it’s the job of police officers to help keep everyone safe.”
“But dey don’t!”
“What do you mean they don’t?” (Now, I was thinking, I know of several instances where police officers have failed at their sworn duty to keep everyone safe, but I didn’t think she did.)
“Remembah when that girl, that poor girl was so sad, and she had long hair and that police was hurting her on the ground? And she was cryin for her mama. She wasn’t keeping safe.”
And so my heart broke a little. But, at the same time, there was a glimmer of rightness in having this conversation with my baby. Because she was watching and she was listening that day the McKinney, Texas pool party video went viral. She heard that young girl’s cries, and my outrage and my sadness about the whole incident.
See, I believe that white moms need to have The Talk –not the birds & the bees talk, the police talk– with their white children, too. For far too long, black and brown parents have had the conversation with their children while, in ignorance and bliss, white parents sat in privilege and just… never even thought about it. But that has to end. It ends for Mike Brown. It ends for Tamir Rice. It ends for Sandra Bland. It ends for John Crawford.
Here’s the really important thing, though. If you’re one of my white friends, and you’re reading this and thinking about this subject, please don’t just listen to me. You need to listen to Black voices. It’s not my place to speak for the people who are really on the recieving end of the trauma and terror of police violence. You need to tune in and listen: listen online, via Facebook and Twitter and great blogs and websites, listen in person. And then you need to have this conversation with your kids, too.
So Abi and I talked a little more, in the car on our way home, about how most police officers are wonderful, conscientious, courageous men and women. It’s always important to be respectful and polite when we speak to them. But sometimes, even police officers make mistakes or even do things out of anger. Sometimes, like in the video she remembered, one might even hurt someone just because of what they look like.
I admit, I felt really inadequate to the task and I worried how much she was ready for. But like every important parenting conversation – it’s not a one and done deal. We’ll revisit this, again and again. I have the chance to get it right. I’ll go over it with her siblings.
And I hope you will, too. (In fact: if you’ve already started having The Talk with your kids, I’d love to hear what you said at various ages. Please drop me a note! Comments go to moderation, so if you’d rather yours stay private please just say so and it won’t be published publicly.)