If you are the parent or guardian of a black male child, you will need to have “the talk”. This talk is not a “sex talk” but the “survival talk”.
Events from Ferguson to Baltimore continue to unfold with irrefutable evidence of hostile systemic law enforcement attitude and fatal actions towards black males. This mindset exhibited by some law enforcement officials—not all—has led to untold destruction of young black male lives by way of unjustified incarceration, homicide and broken homes.
As concerned fathers, there are critical life-saving lessons we should teach our black sons so they safely navigate interactions with law enforcement? We must help our young male children survive interactions with law enforcement.
7 Strategies for ‘the conversation.’
- Be Respectful. Respect the position of all law enforcement officials regardless of behavior. Speaking out against injustice has its time and place. Wait for your day in court—or peaceful protest—to make your case.
- Be on Your Guard. Stay mindful that your black race identity and male status will often make you the target of suspicion for criminal mindset and behavior. You will often need to go the extra mile to demonstrate your “good character”. Your dress attire, attitude and language matter greatly. You can never overuse “Sir” and “may I have permission to” in certain situations.
- Avoid Bad Appearances. Avoid the appearance of “menacing” behavior. This includes unsavory friends— and even family. Guilt by association is the unfortunate pitfall of many otherwise innocent persons.
- Speak Carefully . “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” This wise biblical adage is very relevant and strategic, as you will want to choose words that do not escalate tension. Your goal is to keep emotions calm and exit the situation quickly and unharmed. You want to live for another day.
- Move Carefully. Do not make hasty moves when stopped by law enforcement. Ask for permission to retrieve your ID, Driving License or vehicle registrations. Let your hands stay in clear view. Again, go the “extra mile” to demonstrate good character. Stay calm.
- Know Your Worth. Maintain your strong self-worth. Regardless of any efforts to insult your value, know that you are a valuable human being with potential. Your race and gender are not a liability. Rather your “black-maleness” comes with an array of significant historical struggle and triumph that makes you a tremendous asset to your family, community and world.
- Support Others. It’s not just about you. When you witness unjust and illegal actions towards others, cautiously get involved. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Leverage the power of your voice by way of social media and strategic peaceful protest. Involvement of the masses achieves massive change.
Most law enforcement officials are of true goodwill and judge by character, actions and attitude—not by skin color. Unfortunately, another element exists as well. We must teach our young black sons to discern between safe and unsafe situations, when to advocate and when to document and report. Staying calm in the midst of a conflict is a matter of life and death.
Ron J. Clark, MPP is a national conference speaker, consultant and writer on manhood and fatherhood issues. He is cited in numerous male and family services articles and research reports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his resource website responsiblefatherhood.org.