InvestigationIt’s a widely held tradition in the African American community: educating your children about the risks of being black. A “conversation” revived by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Joseph K. West never imagined that his role as a parent would one day lead him to view, with his three teenagers, the images of George Floyd’s agony under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis. A fortnight ago, this lawyer from Washington resolved to do so, sadly convinced that he should, once again, lead with his children “the talk”, this ritual discussion that all Afro-African families have. about the dangers of simply being black in the United States.
“The talk is what we have been doing for generations to keep our young people alive, sums up the fifties. We inform our sons that even the most mundane interaction, especially with officials responsible for protecting and serving them, can prove fatal. “ An understatement to warn black American youth of the still vivid effects of racism in a section of society and in law enforcement.
In these times of massive protests against police violence, this “conversation” took on a particular echo. A succession of tragic incidents in recent weeks has made it even more urgent than usual. The murder in Georgia of a black jogger chased by white citizens, the video of a black man who came to watch birds and was attacked by a white woman in Central Park, judging him “Threatening”, then the live death of George Floyd on May 25 forced Joseph K. West to tackle the subject head-on “Several times in a few weeks”.
“I wanted my children, who live in a multiracial environment, to understand that, for some whites, the lives of blacks are of no value, even when trying to defuse the situation. We saw this in the case of George Floyd: he remained polite until the time of his death. ” Since the jogger’s murder, two of the athletic West kids have been hesitant to run on the street.
The range of warnings
Depending on the family and the circumstances, the warning session is more or less ritualized, more or less solemn. For some, it will be a discussion at the family table intended to make an impression; for others, a constant reminder of the rules to follow. In some homes, it is done early, before adolescence; elsewhere, we try to preserve the children as long as possible.
“My father always told me that any meeting with the police can go wrong,” confirms Trayvon Harris, a young father of 29, in Baltimore (Maryland). He got his first conversation when he started driving, around the age of 16. The usual instructions in the event of arrest were then given to him: “Keep your hands clearly visible on the wheel, answer:” Yes, sir “,” Yes, madam “if we ask you something …”
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