At a point in our awkward adolescent years many of us found ourselves sitting on a couch or the dining room table across from our parents in order to have a conversation simply known as The Talk. Even if you didn’t experience the talk in that manner I'll bet you're assuming correctly that what I'm referring to is the uncomfortable conversation between parent and child about the birds and the bees, male and female development, how to responsibly handle those strange urges brought upon you by something adults called raging hormones.
This week it's been brought to my attention that within many black families there is an altogether different version of The Talk. Beyond issues of sex, black parents often feel compelled to share with their adolescent young men the hard racial realities that come with being a black man in America. This talk may involve the necessary lessons in appropriate behaviors to assume when aggressively approached by white male authority figures, especially law enforcement. This unimaginably tension-filled conversation is one that a loving black parent painfully recognizes could literally result in life or death.
The Trayvon Martin murder case and the subsequent response by my black male friends, along with prominent public figures such as the Miami Heat basketball team has placed an international emphasis on the ongoing systemic issue of racism within America, an issue that many white males like myself simply have not often been forced to consider.
As a lanky teenager growing up in a Norman Rockwell-esque Indiana farming community it was common for my friends and I to stay up late, sneak out and run around our small town fearlessly playing pranks on classmates or throwing toilet paper in the trees of our teachers. If the police or a grouchy neighbor would have discovered our "criminal" activities the realistic worst that we could expect was our parents being notified and possibly minor privileges being temporarily taken away.