Last year a Black sniper killed five Dallas police officers during a demonstration protesting the shooting deaths of two Black men by White police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana.
ABC News ran a segment that started with a Black father and his sons shaking hands with a Dallas police officer as the city mourned. Then the voice-over announced, “but when they return home, they will resume what Black America has long referred to as ‘The Talk.’”
The reporter asked the eldest son, who was about to get his driver’s license, what he learned from “The Talk.” The teen stated if he didn’t listen (to his father’s instructions, keep your hands in sight, etc.) he could end up shot by the police.
Then the segment jumped to a reenactment of “The Talk” posted on Facebook. Here, two Black children, under 10 years old, asked their father, “Why are police killing kids? Will they shoot us too?” The father announced, “It’s time we had a talk.” Then the voice-over stated even at an early age “The Talk” is about survival.
The final scene of the segment went back to the first father. The audience discovers his talk with his eldest son was also due to the fact that they just moved into a majority White suburb, and the father was recently pulled over by the police for a non-working taillight. But when the father got home and checked his vehicle the taillight functioned properly. The father suggested he was stopped because the police didn’t think he belonged in that neighborhood.
The final scene injected the presumption of White racist police officers who also are the antagonist in “The Talk.” That means the underlining principle behind “The Talk” is for the Black child not to give “the police” an excuse to shoot them like the Black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.
This segment was titled: The Race Divide, parents teach children about “The Talk.”
“The Talk” is about surviving police encounters.
But the backdrop of this segment was five Dallas police officers didn’t survive a day of duty.
I used this segment as an example because it ignored the backdrop and when “The Talk’s” primary purpose is to protect the Black child from the racist antagonist, but neglects to explain the dangers of the police profession then “The Talk” is incomplete. The listener doesn’t develop the empathy necessary for understanding.
My parents gave me their version of “The Talk” when I was a teenager, but as a young adult I got into a scrape up with two police officers and I needed a lawyer. I explained my side of the story to the lawyer. He assured me it wasn’t a big deal, but then he gave me a lawyer’s version of “The Talk;” in other words, he read me the anti-riot act.
He told me his brother was a police officer and his brother’s goal every day was to survive the shift. Then he went into details of the dangers of the police profession that completed “The Talk” my parents started. After that, my ability to empathize in police encounters made all of the difference.
Recently in Dallas, a Black teenager was shot and killed in a passenger seat of a vehicle. The police officer has been charged with murder. “Talks” are happening all over the country. A lot of Black writers have pointed out that in 2017 close to 100 Blacks have been killed by the police and this is a problem.
But this is incomplete.
As of this writing, The Washington Post police shooting database states 354 people have been killed by the police thus far in 2017—147 White, 90 Black, 57 Hispanic, 13 other, 47 unknown. Of the 354 people killed by the police 24 were unarmed, 183 had a gun, 63 had a knife, 39 used vehicles as a weapon, 10 had a toy weapon, and 20 had other. And when compared to the past couple of years, these figures are the norm, but all we normally hear about are the unarmed.
Now truth hurts and it sets free, but an absence of empathy makes talk cheap.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at email@example.com)
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