I recently saw, Momma, Did You Hear the News by Sanya Whittaker Gragg featured in Essence Magazine and I was so glad to see a book geared towards younger kids that deals with “The Talk”. For my white friends, I am pretty sure most of us think the talk means something different (birds and bees, anyone?) than for my friends of color, particularly those raising black boys. “The Talk” is basically when parents talk to their children of color about how to interact with law enforcement.

I can honestly say that this was not on my radar before adopting a black little boy and I still grieve the fact that this is necessary. It is also hard because I know that people who love and know our son don’t want this to be true. But, it is true. I just watched  a two hour documentary by PBS called The Talk: Race in America that I strongly recommend. It would allow you to put yourself in the place of a parent raising a child of color and think through the fears we face.

One thing that really stood out to me was something that Dr. Leah Gunning Francis said (which she attributed to a conversation with a young activist) which is that we need white accomplices, not white allies. An ally goes in and out as it is convenient but an accomplice is all in and is willing to put something on the line. I think that is a really powerful frame for people who have privilege because of their skin color – to see justice happen, we must put something on the line. (You can see this clip at around 1 hour, 23 minutes)

Now, on to the book review. The premise is that parents are setting their two black sons down to have “the talk” after one of the sons asks, “momma, did you hear the news? Another man was shot. They say he had a little girl, bet she misses him a lot”. You can see the angst of the parents and kids in the storyline because they are just kids and it is confusing that they are learning about what to do if a police offers stops them when they don’t even drive yet. One of the sons raises concerns about thinking cops were “good guys”. I liked that the parents don’t offer answers per se but rather share experiences and give them advice for how to handle themselves. There is also clear language about how not all policeman are bad, so this is definitely not construed as a negative book about the police. With this said, it just continues to strike me that this conversation is necessary and that growing up white in America is a completely different experience.

The author has crafted a memorable message for kids to learn to stay ALIVE:

Always use your manners.

Listen and comply.

In control.

Visible hands always.

Explain everything.

If you are raising a child of color, I definitely recommend this book. I am not sure when we will read it with our son, but I am grateful to have the resource when we are ready for this specific conversation. At this point, I find myself giving small bits of information to begin the idea that our country has a history of not treating people with brown and black skin equally and justly. It is uncomfortable and I don’t want to do it but I feel like is it the necessary precursor to these harder talks.