A few weeks ago driving Trey to school, we listen to a news report on the radio about Stephen Clark. The conversation went like this:
Radio Announcer: Police are continuing to investigate the police shooting of unarmed man Stephen Clark over 20 times....
Me: Yes Bub?
Trey: What does unarmed mean?
Me: Um....it means somebody doesn't have any weapons like a gun or a knife on them
Trey: So why did the police shoot him with their guns 20 times?
For the most part, Ayren and I really haven't discussed with Trey and Eliet that sometime people (even policemen and women) wouldn't like him or hate him because of his skin. Since Trey is very observant (and nosy), he has picked up on the fact that I'm not a big fan of our current President and that race is a tricky subject when I talk about him. He has also previously noticed that he is sometimes the only little black boy in any of his classes or activities that he likes to do (like hockey or tennis). But race isn't something that I openly talk about with him. Well, that day is coming...actually, that day is here. Its going to be a hard conversation, but necessary. I'm not going to lie and say that I have it all figured out what I'm going to say to him about it. You see, Trey LOVES anything police and firemen related. When he was younger, he would dress up in his little policeman costume complete with a badge that his Pop Pop gave to him. He then graduated to obsessing about firemen. At one point, he had over 10 firemen hats from our local Firehouse Subs that he would always make Ayren and I take him for lunch after church. Now, as you can see from the picture I included, Trey hasn't completely grown out of his policeman stage. Which will make this talk....challenging.
Growing up, I really didn't have that 'distrust' that a lot of black communities (rightfully) have towards the police force in their towns. Most, if not all, of the policemen and women I knew growing up where some of my favorite people. I mainly grew up around military bases, so the areas were (mostly) diverse enough that the policemen probably had some experience dealing with people that didn't look like him or her. I had the belief that if you were a policeman or woman, you are a person of the community and you just want to uphold the law. I honestly didn't get my first taste of some bad cops until the infamous 'macing' incident during my freshman year at Fayetteville State University. We were all college kids hanging out in front of our dorm building after a basketball game not doing anything wrong. Well, for whatever reason, the Fayetteville police (mostly white guys) showed up and had bullhorns shouting for us to 'get your asses back into your room NOW!' and if we weren't in their once he finished counting down from 10....we would be arrested. Now, I wish I could tell you that I resisted and stood my ground...but I didn't. I went to my room and watched from my window went down. It was crazy. They were actually chasing guys to their rooms and spraying crowd control mace under their door! I was so in shock that the cops could do something cruel like that for no reason. After the dust settled, a lot of cops lost their jobs over that. I mean yeah, I grew up listening to NWA and a few other rappers mention how the cops weren't the heroes people portrayed them to be. I also saw 'Boyz N The Hood' in the movie theater, but me being young and naive....the scene where the cop put a gun to Trey's neck totally went over my head. My dad also never had to have the conversation with me either. I just figured that if I just followed the rules that I wouldn't have anything to worry about, but due to the last few years disproving that theory, black and other minority families have to now 'have the talk'.
I have discussed before how pure and nice my son Trey is. We always hear how kind he is and how he tries to make everyone feel better if they are sad. He definitely gets that part of his personality from his mom! Seriously, even if Trey wasn't my son, I would love to be around him because he's so kind and awesome. But that is also a double edge sword for me. Whenever something comes up that I have to talk about that isn't so nice, I tend to struggle because his first question is always 'Why Daddy?' and most of the time, I don't have a good reason. I just mainly want him to know that if he does follow the rules and control any situation the best he can, that's all he can do. I have begun to tell him the same thing my mom used to tell my sister and I growing up....'Everyone in the world isn't going to love you like your daddy and I do'....meaning: You get away with a lot of stuff here at home because we love you, but try that shit in the world, you may not like the results. Ayren and I try to limit the amount of bad stuff that Trey and Eliet hear and see on TV, but these days, you can't even watch the news with your kids because the first 10 or so minutes is like watching an R rated movie. You hear the stories of rape, murder, abuse and.....of course....racism. Trey and Eliet are still young enough that kids (mostly) don't pay attention to things such as race and culture, but its coming. I remember last year, Ayren and I were out with the kids at a taco spot in Falls Church, VA and we went to sit down to eat our food and a little girl sitting with her parents was like 'look....brown people!' Read that line again....this happened in Falls Church, VA.....in 2017.
Stories that include Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and so and so are starting to become too frequent for black and minorities to not mention anything. And on top of that hot topic, you have school shootings that have to be explained. Its all too stressful to think about for me. One thing I do remember is once Mr. Rogers was talking about a situation where someone had done something inexplicably horrible for no reason and his mom told him to not focus on the bad people, just focus on the people who are running to help those that need it. I believe that will be the basis of my talk with my little ones....to not focus on the evil people of the world just focus on and try to be a good person. It may sound super cheesy, but its something I truly believe.