Two Black girls in America. One had “The Talk” one didn’t. Navigating the labyrinth that is anti-blackness.
Before we continue, you know what The Talk is, don’t you? You might not, and that’s okay. Google will help here. But also, the TV show Blackish had an episode all in The Talk that is very helpful. Come back and continue reading after you’ve acquainted yourself. Promise, it’s worth the effort.
How did I get to thinking about The Talk today you may ask? On my flight to Palm Springs for my second COVID vaccine, I was watching a random movie (Waves is the movie if you care to look it up, I’m only 37 minutes into it so I don’t have a review of it or anything) where the Black father is having a truncated version of The Talk with his son. It wasn’t the full Talk to see; it was just a quick reminder thrown into general life lessons he was teaching his kid on the importance of hard work. But, as a Black man, raising a Black man in America, he can’t just talk about hard work without the following thrown in and stressed
“The world don’t give a shit about you or me. They do not afford us the luxury of being average. Gotta work ten times as hard just to get anywhere.”
When I heard him say that, it felt like a punch in the gut and I had to pause the movie to write some thought. Not because I’m not familiar with The Talk or haven’t heard it talked about often in my partner’s family. But because, in that moment, I could see the privilege I had growing up not having The Talk giving to me. Not because my mom was the kinda parent who’s like, nah, I will not mention that to them because I want them to grow up unaware of racism. But because there was never any need to get The Talk as a kid growing up in Ghana.
Sure, there’s colorism and tribalism and a host of other issues in Ghana. But racism was not one of them. My mom still expected me to take first place in my class by working the hardest because according to her,
“those who always get first place, do they have two heads? Okay then, why can’t you be the person in first place Chinweokwu (my traditional name)”
So, I faced pressure that comes from being raised by an African parent with high expectations. But, here’s the thing, every kid in my class was probably getting the same tongue lashing from their parent as I was. So, we were on an equal playing field with the same pressures. In America, though, only the Black kids are getting the talk.
For instance, I find it hard to believe that any of you who are white, reading this, tell your kid that the world doesn’t give a shit about them, that they’re not afforded the luxury of being average, that they have to work ten times as hard to get anywhere based on the COLOR OF THEIR SKIN alone. Take a moment and think about that. Seriously, take it in. That this is a talk many Black parents feel like they have to have with their Black kids on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.
Not every Black parent in America has The Talk with their kid. And you can find many articles online as to the reason they choose not to. One of which is, the kid is going to face racism no matter what, why inundate them with it at home too? Why not them maintain their innocence? Some even say, when you have The Talk with Black kids, they’re more apt to see anti-Black racism where none exists (major eye roll at this).
Ultimately, for many parents with Black kids, there isn’t a choice but to let them know the reality of life in the country they live in. The undeniable truth that the very foundations of the country are anti-Black. And that, if they don’t have the talk with their kids, how will they make it in this world? When, just by their name, they’re discriminated against.
It got me thinking though of how my partner moves through an anti-Black society vs. how I move through it. Sure, we have fundamental personality differences that account for how differently we move. But, it got me thinking of how not having The Talk (because there was no need for it) vs having it influences how differently we view rest, working hard, achieving goals, making money, showing vulnerability, maintaining a protective shell (in order to survive a system intent on killing you). How differently we react when the police pull us over and the list goes on and on.
Ultimately, my thought process (and writing) ended with me having more questions than answers. How will we raise Black kids in this society? Will we have The Talk with them? Is “making it” in with a white supremacist world the goal? Considering that white supremacy is truly worldwide, the question then is, is “making it” the goal. Especially if making it means us just not being able to BE. When that means working ten times as hard. When that means grinding harder than our white counterparts in order to achieve a modicum of the success they have. Is there a way to achieve balance? Can we convey they might work the hardest and the white world they’re surrounded by may still not recognize their greatness come what may? So then, they shouldn’t use that a benchmark on how hard or not they work? How do we teach them to understand and accept their inherent worth and that it’s not their problem if the racist world they’re born into and inhabit doesn’t recognize it?
On the other side of the coin, what are the roles of white people/parents? How can you dismantle the system by just naming these things in front of your kids and other white people? Having these discussions with them instead of just online. I believe that most of the work we’re doing today is for the next generation. Laying the groundwork for a more fair future. Killing this cancer that is white supremacy once and for all. A cancer that has ravaged the entire world and keeps in going. A cancer that is resistant to most treatments because it holds on to power, money, success, superiority with a death grip. It’s a cancer that affects us all. Not just Black people or other POC but also white people. Perhaps mostly white people with its ability to strip them of their humanity.
How can you, as a white person, tangibly harness your power to eradicate white supremacy and eradicate the need for any parent to a Black kid to ever have The Talk with their kid?
If you’re Black, yes or no to The Talk? Or grey areas?