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Monday, May 25, 2015

THE TALK: To Have Or Not To Have - That's NOT The Question

JULY 13 2013
"I was chatting just yesterday about the necessity of educating my 11-year old around race matters in an era that claims to be post-racial and among a generation indifferent to racial complexities. I was wondering whether sharing my viewpoint would unduly harm her sanguine perspective and dampen any hopes that things indeed had changed. I guess my face has been rinsed with one final splash of cold water.

She and I will need to sit and talk about the realities of race. I'll be the thief who steals from her pocket the innocence of childhood. Maybe, if we're lucky, she'll live to see what I won't see, the realized dream of a post-racial America, in her children or perhaps even her grands.
Or, just maybe and even more likely, she'll be having this same talk with her young ones too."

- Jonathan C.
July 13, 2013

I still remember my parents having THE TALK with me when I was a kid.We had just moved to New York City when I was in 1st grade.

Prior to that I'd gone to kindergarten a mixed race school on a military base in Alaska. As the military had already been integrated for X years, the white people there had adjusted (somewhat?). So there had been no reason to give me THE TALK at 4 or 5 years of age.

Later, I had an impersonal section of THE TALK when we moved to segregated Texas. My parents had to explain to me why all the kids at my school were black. I say "impersonal" because we were living in a black neighborhood and I was going to a black school and the white people that hated ALL blacks were not going to be there at my school.

My parents didn't have to have THE TALK in its entirety until we moved to New York City.

I was still in first grade. I can't remember the words actually said. I just have a general recollection of being given the news that I would be going to a predominantly white school and that it wasn't going to be like Alaska. (Bussing had recently started) I was told that the white kids there weren't used to black people. I was told that they might fear me and act like they hate me because of my skin color. I was told that I shouldn't really be afraid because the kids wouldn't REALLY know what they were saying. They would just be repeating what their ignorant parents said.

"Ignorant" was a big word associated with "racism" in our house. I remember vaguely being told what to do if one of my teachers was to verbally attack me in some way. I was told to behave politely and come home and tell my father. He would take care of it.

I DO remember my reaction to THE TALK. I got the runs immediately. I was scared I was ill most of the weekend. Most of it....but I started to relax because I knew I wouldn't be forced to go to school if I was sick. I confirmed this verbally at least once. I relaxed. And relaxing was my undoing (insert bitter laughter here) I was fine come Monday morning.

At P.S. 209 everything was arranged by height. I was tall, so I wound up in the back of the line and in the back of classroom more often than not. Even if I hadn't been tall, I started at P.S. 209 in the middle of the school year, so I suppose I would have wound up in the very back desk behind Stacy and Judy anyway.

In 1970 Stacy had long brown wavy hair to the middle of her back. Judy had long thin blond hair to the middle of her back. And that's pretty much all I saw of them for the remainder of the year. They never said hello to me. Ever. They didn't talk to me at all. They made sure their hands didn't touch mine when they had to pass back papers. They made sure their mouths were pursed in distaste every time they had to do so, but I rarely ever saw their faces at all. My mother said I used to come home from school chattering at 100 miles an hour from the second I hit the door. She said she didn't realize that it was because I hadn't spoken to anyone all day...not until much, much later.

I don't know if she knows to this day that those white girls were the reason I was so very, very silent and "well behaved." That all took place in 1970. And now, in 2013, Jonathan's post about having to tell his daughter the very same things just made me burst into tears

 * * * * * * * * * * *
On July 13, 2013 we heard the Trayvon Martin Verdict: Not guilty.

On February 24, 2015, the Department of Justice decided they didn't have enough evidence for a federal hate crime prosecution.

To talk or not to talk about racism is not the question when you have dark-skinned child. The only question is how old can you let your child get? How long can you wait and still get there before another child or teacher says or does something...hateful or ignorant enough to be mistaken for hate?

"When?" That's the only question there is if you're black in U.S.A.