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Why black parents have “the talk” with their kids

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I don’t know if Michael Brown presented a life-threatening situation to police officer Darren Wilson, and I don’t know if Wilson’s shooting of Brown was racially motivated. I don’t know if the grand jury in St. Louis got it right by not indicting Wilson, and I don’t know if St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch purposefully failed to get an indictment.

Here’s what I do know with reasonable certainty: Michael Brown’s death gives us cause to think about the fact that many in the black community are suspicious of police.  This is a reality—one that makes little sense to people not of color—the nation needs to come to grips with.

I remember listening a year or so ago to CNN newscaster, Don Lemon, talk about getting “the talk,” and he wasn’t referring to the birds and the bees. “The talk” was when his father discussed with him how he needed to be cautious about the police, because the police would view him differently than whites. I got the sense that “the talk” is common in the black community.

I’ve listened to comedian D.L. Hughley say that when his kids were ready he would teach them that they should be wary of police. His message was anything other than the police should be looked at as protectors.

I’ve listened to one of my kid’s grade school teachers, a black woman, tell me about how her son would be stopped and questioned by police. A client of mine in the carpet cleaning business would instruct his black employees not to drive the company trucks in certain suburbs—let the white member of the cleaning crew do the driving—so they wouldn’t be stopped by the police.

Here is what the Gallup polls reveal. Data from 2011 through 2014 shows that 59 percent of white adults have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in the police, compared to only 37 percent of black adults. Twenty-five percent of blacks have very little or no confidence in the police. About one in four black men, age 18 to 54, said they had been treated unfairly in dealings with police in the past 30 days.

According to Gallup, the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012 showed significant white-black differences in perception concerning the police, similar to what was found after the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995. We see the same with Michael Brown’s death.

It’s hard for people who are not of color to understand how any of this can be, but that doesn’t mean the reality doesn’t exist. It’s a foreign concept for many of us to understand, and it’s easy to be reactionary. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani provides an example. When asked on November 23, 2014, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about increasing diversity and trust in police departments, Giuliani tried to shift blame: “White police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other,” and “we are not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks,” a statistic that appears to be significant but really isn’t when taken in context.[1]

If you’re not black, why be concerned?  Because we should we be moving forward with race relations. Because the black community’s distrust of police presents a source of division that leads to unrest. Because the tension we saw in Ferguson, Mo.—let’s be clear, there’s no justification for the violence and looting we watched on T.V.—shows us what happens when a segment of society feels powerless. Because black parents shouldn’t feel the need to have “the talk” with their kids.

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Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com

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[1]  According to The Washington Post, 84 percent of white victims are killed by white offenders.

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Discussion

  1. robin Lorms  December 1, 2014

    Jack:

    I appreciate your article and the reality of racial life in our nation. As you know, I deal a lot with prisoners and ex-offenders working hard to reestablish themselves in their new found freedom. Many have expressed the same thoughts found in your article. That said, the truth remains that most of the violent crimes in the black community are “black on black” and usually driven by drug deals. Poverty is a cruel oppressor and many in our inner cities feel hopeless and give up early on life. No role models, no accountability, no money, no jobs resulting in no hope and no self esteem.

    The long term answer is leadership in the black community calling for black men to “man-up” and take ownership of their lives. I know several black men who have suffered from all the social ills found in the inner city and yet they are thriving in their work, building families and giving back to their communities. These success stories almost always include a mentor who came alongside a black man who was willing to make the personal investment necessary to succeed. Someone needs to show the bureaucrats in our nation’s capitol what leadership looks like. Unfortunately, President Obama is not qualified leaving this much needed role vacant.

    I appreciate your column and thank you for including me in the distribution list.

    Robin Robin Lorms Coordinator of Men’s Ministry Kindway/Embark

    (reply)
  2. james@hirlty.com  December 1, 2014

    Dear Jack   Consider the fact that 72% of black children are born out of wedlock today.   Consider the fact that less than 50% of the Black families are two parent homes.   The police see much more crime in the black community because of these two statistics.   In the case of Trayvon Martin, both men were of color. One black and one Hispanic. The News media presented them as one being a White Hispanic. I guess that created a taking point for the talking heads.   There was no bias in the shooting of Michael Brown. He was a thug who strong armed a merchant and stole cigars from him and then threatened him with physical violence as the video surveillance camera showed. Brown was stopped because he fit the description of the large black man in a Yellow shirt who committed the robbery a few minutes beforehand. Michael Brown attempted to over power the cop and take his gun. That is the evidence that persuaded the Grand Jury that Brown was the aggressor in the police shooting. If you as an attorney won’t support their findings, how can you be you part of the legal system?   By saying you don’t know if there was a fair trial you allow the racially divisive rumors to continue. There was a fair trial in Ferguson in spite of the efforts of President Obama and Eric Holder to use it to further divide the country along racial lines. Our Country suffers when the rest of us don’t recognize this politically motivated behavior and stand up against it.   I hope you will take a stand for moral leadership and moral behavior. Our country cannot survive with out an principled and moral citizenry.         Thanks!James R. DixonHomes & Investments Realty,

    (reply)
  3. james@hirlty.com  December 1, 2014

    Dear Jack   Consider the fact that 72% of black children are born out of wedlock today.   Consider the fact that less than 50% of the Black families are two parent homes.   The police see much more crime in the black community because of these two statistics.   In the case of Trayvon Martin, both men were of color. One black and one Hispanic. The News media presented them as one being a White Hispanic. I guess that created a taking point for the talking heads.   There was no bias in the shooting of Michael Brown. He was a thug who strong armed a merchant and stole cigars from him and then threatened him with physical violence as the video surveillance camera showed. Brown was stopped because he fit the description of the large black man in a Yellow shirt who committed the robbery a few minutes beforehand. Michael Brown attempted to over power the cop and take his gun. That is the evidence that persuaded the Grand Jury that Brown was the aggressor in the police shooting. If you as an attorney won’t support their findings, how can you be you part of the legal system?   By saying you don’t know if there was a fair trial you allow the racially divisive rumors to continue. There was a fair trial in Ferguson in spite of the efforts of President Obama and Eric Holder to use it to further divide the country along racial lines. Our Country suffers when the rest of us don’t recognize this politically motivated behavior and stand up against it.   I hope you will take a stand for moral leadership and moral behavior. Our country cannot survive with out an principled and moral citizenry.         Thanks!James R. DixonHomes & Investments Realty,

    (reply)
  4. Harvey Hook  December 1, 2014

    Something of depth, meaning and reflection that we all need to consider.

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  5. Tony Gugliemotto  December 2, 2014

    Jack,

    I believe that the Michael Brown’s actions were criminal but I’m not convinced that he needed to be shot to death. I also believe that officer Darren Wilson was in fear for his life but I’m not convinced that he didn’t overreact. Only officer Wilson knows what was in his heart. and we will never know. Consequently, the case is closed and our speculation is meaningless.

    However, in Robin Lorms’ reply he eloquently summed up the day-to-day reality for the majority of Black Americans. Robin stated, “Poverty is a cruel oppressor and many in our inner cities feel hopeless and give up early on life. No role models, no accountability, no money, no jobs resulting in no hope and no self esteem.”

    In my opinion, our Black American community continues to suffer and be systematically diminished by withering and unrelenting bias. By way of example, we only need to look as far as the President of the United States. The greatest possible role model that our Black American community could possibly have is also being systematically diminished by withering and unrelenting bias.

    The only useful response to Michael Brown’s death is for us to look into our hearts and be brutally honest about what is there.

    Thanks for encouraging this dialogue.

    Tony Gugliemotto

    (reply)
    • Jack D'Aurora  December 2, 2014

      Regrettably, being “brutally honest” is not what most people want to do. We hesitate to be honest because we’re afraid on some level of what we may find.

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  6. Jack D'Aurora  December 2, 2014

    I like that you take the time to provide us with thoughtful comments, Robin. Nicely done.

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  7. Tony Jones  February 10, 2015

    Jack,

    Your blog was absolutely incredible and dead on! I am not just saying this because I am a black man but because you are right. I can only speak for myself, but for me it’s always good to hear someone else’s opinion, especially from a white professional male. This is why I have a lot of respect for you, because you are not afraid to give YOUR honest opinion regardless of the subject matter.

    As a young man, I got the same talk Don Lemon talked about. My mother and father would tell me and my brothers to avoid situations and always respect the police. Today, I still avoid possible situations by never leaving home without my driver license and car insurance. I grew up in the projects of Hilltop Housing in Dayton, Ohio, before my mother and father moved the family out of the projects into our first house, a 4 bedroom/1 bath, when I was 13. I am not ashamed of telling people about growing up in the projects because it’s not what define me as a man, but it has played a valuable part in my upbringing.

    As a young man I witnessed brutality by the police but also knew that not all police officers were bad. I can recall a white officer everyone nicknamed Curly, because he had curly blonde hair. He did not look at all black boys or men as thugs and low-lifes. He looked at everyone as equals and respected everyone, and everyone respected Officer Curly. My memory of Officer Curly is a positive memory. He always got out of his car to play with the kids and let us sit inside his car, and he always talked with the adults.

    I agree with you, “it’s hard for people who are not of color to understand how any of this can be, but that doesn’t mean the reality doesn’t exist.” When I heard Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani provide his “example,” my first thought was, people voted him into office to serve as mayor?

    Really good blog, Jack!! Sorry for not offering my comments sooner because this blog was worthy of the comment….Tony

    (reply)

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