Talk It Out: How to Have A Conversation About Racial Profiling

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On the afternoon of August 9th when Michael Brown was gunned down by a police officer in a Missouri suburb for apparently no reason other than being Black and walking, my 11-year-old son paused a moment to listen to the highlights that were being reported on the news. What hurt me the most was his casual attitude towards it and he didn’t make mention of it until the following day. His words were few, yet, poignant: “here we go again.”

Silly of me to believe that the riots and rallies in Ferguson wouldn’t become a topic of discussion during school and spill over into the sidelines during football practice as current event, social chatter amongst the moms. A group of them sounded like a reel of Fox News sound bytes on repeat. Ugh!

Naturally, the larger part of me would like to rip through the ridiculous justifications on behalf of the shooter to bring home the fact that once again, a Black child has died at the hands of their kind and they will find a way to dismiss the loss of life with some privileged based notion that holds no weight. Inevitably, one or a few of them would’ve ended up crying and feeling victimized by my words and I suddenly become the “angry Black mom,” right? I remained silent and kept my distance through the first few conversations and took the weekend to wrap my brain around how to have a politically correct conversation.

In the meantime, I came across an article titled “A Mother’s White Privilege”  in which the author very honestly described her young children’s default privileges but closed her piece with the reality that, without acknowledging said “privilege,” white children could grow into someone like a Darren Wilson, Michael Dunn or George Zimmerman.

So why is racial profiling and police brutality so difficult to talk about and how do you stay PC when having these conversations? Be prepared for an onslaught of ignorant statements under the guise of societal compliance.

Here are a few examples of how to respond to the inevitable rationale as it relates to race relations:

Justifier: “Well, I hate that it happened but I think we need to just be cool until we learn all the facts and go from there.”

PC Mom: “The fact is a young man was murdered and no arrests have been made. There hasn’t even been an attempt to hold anyone accountable. Can you explain that?”

Justifier: “Well, yeah. That’s true but he robbed that store right before he was shot.”

PC Mom: “Does the crime match the punishment? Did he have to be executed for it? And that incident holds no relevance to the death of Mike Brown. When these matters are handled appropriately, you usually stand trial before any form of corporal punishment is carried out.”

Justifier: “I don’t think it was racial at all. The police man was doing his job.”

PC Mom: “I’m not sure it was either but what are the odds something like this would happen to your kids?”

Justifier: “But, but, they were looting.”

PC Mom: “I don’t agree with the looting, however, what does the looting have to do with the death of this young man?”

Justifier: “But don’t you think something needs to be done about Black on Black crime?”

PC Mom: “Crimes are committed in all communities and it’s usually against someone of that person’s own community or common background. All crime is a problem. But, again, what does this have to do with Mike Brown being murdered?

Notice that the PC Mom hasn’t mentioned race once in this entire conversation, but the justifier has all but itemized “black community issues” that should somehow take precedence over the death of a young, Black male at the hands of a white officer. Since the door was opened for discussion, allow the PC Mom to finish that thought in all her politically correct splendor.

PC Mom: “This is exactly why I don’t like to have this conversation because it seems as though we can’t agree that there’s a wrongful death that hasn’t been accounted for. Understand, I haven’t mentioned race once in this entire conversation but the truth is boys who look like mine are often the victims of racial profiling, mistaken identity, police brutality and senseless murder for which justice is hardly sought after or served. But, what I want you to think about is this – in these kind of unfortunate situations, boys who look like yours are often the shooters, the aggressors, officers, judges, jurors and conveyors of “blind justice.” So, what are WE going to do to fix this?”

While the conversation usually stops here, rest assured you’ve passed on of few thinking and talking points. The truth of the matter is we have to have these uncomfortable conversations in order to come to a middle ground. No mother should have to fear  that each day could be her child’s last or that he or she may be treated unfairly or physically harmed due to a misunderstanding and/or the color of their skin. It’s simply not a cultural norm that should be accepted. The absolute agreement we should all share is every living being deserves a chance to pursue and experience a full, happy healthy life. End of story.

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