In the days following the announcement of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman murder case, there has been a lot of discussion about what we should tell our children, especially our young men.
In newspapers, on television, and on social media sites, parents are asking themselves and their peers if they should tell their sons that being a young male in this country requires that they take certain precautions when out and about, or if that is giving in to fear and stereotypes.
We empathize with Black parents when they say they have to have that talk with their sons. They should tell them that being a young Black man will still cause some people they don’t know to, for at least a moment, wonder if they are up to no good when they meet them on the street. During the talk they should also tell them that despite their feelings to the contrary, they are not invincible or immortal, and bad things happen, so they must be ever vigilant of their surroundings.
It’s not just Black parents who need to have this talk with their sons, Latino, Asian, and White parents also need to have the talk.
Our intent is not to make the victim the criminal, but the reality is that bad things happen to good people and many good young people, especially young men, wrongly think they can control everything around them.
In our society we value individualism, but too many parents have confused allowing their children to be individuals with not requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.
Young people sometimes are of the opinion that they can do and say whatever they want whenever they want, regardless of who’s around, and that often gets them into trouble.
Just this week, three young men lost their lives, one in a road rage incident, one was killed in a confrontation with a police officer and the third’s body was found dumped in a big heap of dirt.
We don’t yet know what transpired during these slayings, we weren’t there, but we can’t help wonder if the three dead men put themselves in dangerous situations they wrongly assumed they could control.
We wonder if the parents of these young men ever had the talk with them, and told them that life is short and not everything is in their control; Or that their actions come with consequences that are at times unfair?
What should the talk consist of? How about things like not cutting off drivers or flipping them off because you may cause an accident or the target of your aggression might have a gun.
Don’t get into confrontations with the police, they might shoot you.
If you curse and act out in public, even if it’s just in fun with friends, people around you will think you’re no good.
If your sons are under age tell them that if they are out after curfews they could draw the unwanted attention of police. Tell them that if they think “just hanging around” gangs is cool, it isn’t—it’s dangerous.
We understand that parents have lost the battle of the dress code, but explain to them what some of the consequences of their choice of clothing can bring, fair or not.
We know that some will think our views are un-enlightened, maybe a little old fashion, but that’s okay if the talk helps keeps at least one young man from being killed.