‘The talk’: Teaching black children about the world they face


The death of George Floyd and subsequent demonstrations nationwide have many families discussing racism — but for many African American parents, “the talk” has long been a necessity in society where their children must learn the dangers of growing up black in the United States.

“I don’t know any black parents that don’t have the talk with their child,” said Tiffany Russell, 26. “But it’s now definitely a good time.”

When Russell was three years old, after a dramatic incident, her mother sat her down, explained what happened, and advised her how to behave in the future: “You have to be careful about how you act, about how you react.”

“You can’t be too aggressive, too angry. She told me if a police officer stops me just don’t say anything and just listen. Even if you’re upset — you cannot show that you’re upset.”

Glen Henry, a black father of four, spoke less to his two oldest children — ages five and seven — about how they carried themselves, focusing more on what they were likely to encounter.

A YouTuber, he filmed and posted the conversation. His wife Yvette was initially opposed to bringing up the topic so soon.

By the end of the clip, she was in tears.

Henry convinced her that recent events justified putting racism on the table with “children who should not have to learn this.”

Brittany Everette, a 27-year-old bi-racial mother in Virginia, appealed to Twitter for help knowing if the moment had come to speak to her son.

“Children see the world as this bright, shiny place full of opportunity and wonder,” she said, adding that her son who will start kindergarten in the fall sometimes dresses up as an officer.

But for Russell, shielding children is “not doing any justice.”

“I didn’t think it took away any of our innocence or any part of our childhood,” she said. “It made us aware of our actions.”

“It’s the reality.”

Everette and her husband, who is black, ultimately agreed two discussions were necessary: first on the question of race, and later on to discuss police brutality against black people.

In many ways the discussion is life-long, with added complexities at milestones including starting primary school, entering the workforce, getting a driver’s license.



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