This African American Mom Worries “The Talk” May Not Be Enough

I have been a follower of Grown & Flown for quite a few years now, and during that time, I’ve enjoyed articles of all types. From starting high school and selecting the right classes to discussions of prom attire and leaving for college Grown & Flown has covered it all.

Imagine a world where milestones are feared

Now imagine a world in which those types of milestones can’t be celebrated because allowing your child to experience them could mean death for that child. That, my friends, is my world.

While we are all interested in topics such as starting high school, selecting courses, attending prom, and leaving for college, African American parents worry about other issues when those milestones are reached.

Will the college they attend encourage and appreciate diversity? Will they recognize my child’s gifts and talents? Will my child receive the same benefit of the doubt as white students if he or she needs it? Will the teachers at this school treat my child as they do his or her white counterparts? Will students at this school feel comfortable using the n-word in his or her presence or make him or her the butt of their jokes?

Black man
Will the “talk” be enough to protect my sons? (Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash)

When it comes to attending prom and leaving for college, what if our son decides to ask a white girl to the prom or falls in love with one while away at college? Will her parents accept him? What if he’s pulled over by the police and they see a white girl in the car with him? Will my son’s safety be put at risk?

African American parents love their children just as much as parents of other races and ethnicities, and we enjoy those first years of their lives serving as classroom moms and PTA board members, coaching their little league teams, or organizing sleepovers and playdates just as other parents do. Even though we might not realize it at the time, we even enjoy chauffeuring our children to and from their various activities and sitting in the car waiting for the activities to end.

As our sons get older, they are perceived as threatening

Then practically overnight, our sons grow taller, their shoulders broaden, and their voices get deeper. Now our sweet babies are suddenly viewed as a threat to some. Many parents are excited when their children become teenagers because now they can get their own lives back, but for African American parents, now that our children have earned a bit of freedom, we have to begin preparing ourselves to spend our days and nights fearing for the safety of our precious bundles of joy. 

For African American parents, the moment at which our children earn their freedom is the exact moment when our children are now feared by people who don’t know them. Trayvon Martin was just seventeen years old when he was mercilessly killed by a vigilante in 2012 while walking back home in the rain after going to the store to get candy and a drink.

Twelve year old Tamir Rice was shot by a police officer in 2014 for playing with a toy gun in the park. We still don’t know why 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down by a police officer and left bleeding in the street for four hours in 2014, but since that time, I have held my own sons, ages 21 and 17, a lot tighter, and I have worked harder to improve the world in which we live so that I can rest easier when my sons are not with me.

My sons deserve the same rights as yours

My sons are handsome intelligent, and ambitious young men who deserve the same rights and privileges as others to enjoy their youth and look forward to their future. Right now they should be driving and enjoying their young lives, but instead they are afraid to drive because of what they’ve seen in the news.

That fact is heartbreaking.

African American parents are often tasked with having “the talk” with our children. This is when we sit them down and go over a list of rules that will keep them safe when they are not with us. The list grows with each milestone they reach, and they include little tips like remembering to hold the receipt while leaving a store after making a purchase or even life-saving tips like putting their hands on the dashboard and not talking back if they’re ever pulled over by the police. We tell them to never leave the house without identification and to maintain a nice haircut and dress appropriately. We chide them to always behave in a way that makes the people around you feel comfortable.

Our most pressing concern is for our children to make it home alive and in one piece at the end of each day. But what if having “the talk” isn’t enough? What if my sons run into vigilantes like the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery? Or a white woman like Amy Cooper who called the police on a black man for requesting that she obey the law and leash her dog? Having “the talk” in those instances would not have been enough. When people like Amy Cooper, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan decide to lean on their privilege which allows them to lord their desires over those around them, who will protect our children? My children?

The incidents we see on the news sound like they could’ve happened in the 1950’s, but they both happened year.  IT IS 2020 AND THESE THINGS ARE STILL HAPPENING…

That fact is heartbreaking.

Why are incidents like these still happening and how can we make this country safe for all of our children?

White parents – it begins with you.

E.J. Callaway-Frazier earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Philander Smith College, a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and a Master of Science in Library Media and Information Technologies from the University of Central Arkansas. For twenty years, she has used skills learned in college and graduate school to educate the masses in reading, writing, and research. After spending sixteen years grading and proofreading student writing – both as an English teacher and as a yearbook adviser – and editing work for friends and children of friends, she officially began her editing career in 2017 when she edited Tamia Thompson’s Thirteen. Since then, she has continued to edit works of creative writing for friends, written the Introduction in Our Stories, Our Voices, Our Visions, and had her own memoir published in Janis Kearney’s 2020 Writing Our Lives Southern Anthology. She currently works as a library media specialist and enjoys reading and editing creative works of all types, such as fiction, essays, and memoirs

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