How To Talk Openly And Honestly To Your Kids About Police Brutality
Writer and director Salim Akil, co-founder of Akil Productions and husband of Mara Brock Akil, recently penned a touching, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting letter to the couple’s 12-year-old son. Published in The Hollywood Reporter, the letter was inspired by a conversation he had with his son in the aftermath of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s deaths at the hands of police. And, of course, also in the aftermath of the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police while playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. In it, he put his son’s “tears into context” by discussing the strange relationship America has with its racial memory. Akil ends by encouraging his son to live life “by any means necessary.”
The letter is thought-provoking, and also a great way to open a conversation about police interaction and police brutality with your child or children. This conversation will be tough, to say the least, but it’s important and necessary. Here are but a few ways to approach the matter with your kids.
There is no official age or way to approach this difficult subject with your child. But as a parent, you will likely have to have this conversation many times. You know your child best. Begin at an age you feel is appropriate and speak to their level of comprehension.
You might not know the answer to every question your child may have, and that’s okay. But having an open, honest dialogue is crucial.
It’s Okay To Be…
…angry. Scared. Confused. Sad. Let your child know that there is no one way to feel.
How to Interact with Police
Do this and you’ll be safe in the presence of the very people meant to protect and serve you. Do this and you won’t become another hashtag. What do you tell your child when Black men, women and children are targeted by police for “looking suspicious”? For selling CDs or cigarettes? What do you tell your children when Black men, women and children are 100 percent compliant with police and still end up dead? Clearly, there are no simple answers. But ask your child how they feel about police and why. Ask what they’d do given a particular circumstance or interaction. Guide them through their responses.
If you’re concerned about the potential effects conversations about police brutality will have on your child, know that not talking about this subject is potentially more damaging.
Ask questions that will get your child talking. Ask them how they feel, what they think. And if they’re avoidant, take note of their behavior and potential changes in their typical demeanor.
This conversation doesn’t have to stay within your immediate family. Involve other parents and other children, offer support to one another and continue to uplift and empower your children with the knowledge they need.
Encourage your children to take action with you to end police brutality. If you’re involved in protests and deem your child’s presence appropriate, bring them along. Continue to educate them about social justice, civil rights and activism.
Beyoncé. Kendrick Lamar. Carmelo Anthony. More and more artists and athletes are becoming involved and speaking their minds about police brutality, gun violence and race in America, and the influence of these public figures is major. Their art and activism can be a way to broach the subject with your children.
Encourage your child to express their feelings and opinions through music, painting, dancing, poetry, drawing and other forms of art.
If your child has a cell phone, make sure it is equipped with apps like the ACLU’s Mobile Justice, which records and immediately submits footage of law enforcement interaction to your local ACLU affiliate.