Before we could mourn one senseless death, another occurred. Day after day. At least the news covered it these times. Then five more deaths. The range of emotions runs too deep. The familiarity. The sense of loss. The numbness. The anger. The silence. And regardless of how we feel, we still have to wake up and get on with our regularly scheduled adult lives because that’s how it works.
In such a divisive atmosphere, I’m sure there’s one clear thing we can all easily agree on:
No one wants to get shot.
No one. None of us. Some people are willing to accept getting shot, but no one wants it.
And we damn sure don’t want our sons shot dead, grazed or even worried about it. But we don’t have that luxury. The sadness of the names we know cut short in life is humbled by the recognition of all the names we don’t—and never will.
As parents, it’s our job to keep our children safe. But sadly, that’s not entirely within our control. But we can prepare our children for the harsh realities of the world. Does it depend on what age our kids are before they are prepared for that lesson? I think so. Here are two approaches on how to tackle the issue among different age groups.
What do you say to the 21-year-old?
My brother who currently lives in Maryland told his 21-year-old son in Houston to keep his eyes open. This is what he said.
“This is just getting out hand, violence against young black males is totally unacceptable and downright disgusting. Kalen, please be careful out there and be aware of your surroundings. Sad to say this but humble yourself if you get approached by any law enforcement officer. Speak clearly and move slowly when asked to do something. Your life is way more important than your pride. I can’t stress that enough, son. I just wanted [you] to know that this police targeting young black males is nothing new and has been going on for decades. Just be smart in your decision making and make sure you are doing the right thing. Love ya!”
Given our country’s history, there’s no doubt in my mind this conversation, and millions like it across the nation are necessary. And that’s America 2016. We should be ashamed.
What do you say to the 4-year-old?
I have a young 4-year-old son, and my advice is not to say a damn thing. There’s an irreplaceable value to the innocence of the youth. And as hurt and tired as I am of the death waiting around the corner for all of us, I keep his mind pure out of hope. It is my hope that the Black Lives Matter movement will have raised enough awareness and affected enough change by the time he’s older. It is my hope that he’ll consider himself privileged, thanks to the men who came before him.
Not having to consistently worry about your survival can free the mind to do amazing things when not encumbered by thoughts of imminent potential death.
I choose to tell him nothing—today. I choose to play in the backyard with him. I choose to enjoy my time with him. I choose to laugh, however, I’m prepared for the day I may need to explain to him why his life might be different than his fairer skinned friends and neighbors.
Shameful is the nation who makes us have that conversation with a 4-year-old.
BMWK, what have you told your kids about the current climate?
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