3039844-inline-i-1-the-talk-in-americaI never knew this before, but apparently many African American families do.

Some parents of black kids have this talk in order to increase the odds that their kids will get home safely if they encounter the police when they are away from home: “10 Rules of Survival if Stopped By Police.”

I never had this talk with my kids; it never crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure none of my grandchildren will ever hear this talk from their parents. But it’s considered crucial parenting wisdom for black families. I had no idea; perhaps that’s the case for others of you who are white.

You who are black may have heard this talk or given it. My friends, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you live with that.

One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, emphasizes the intellectual integrity of being able to hold two seemingly conflicting truths at the same time, and respecting the elements of truth in both. It’s the opposite of the “dualistic” or “binary” thinking we often see in our society that assumes that one position is 100% right, and a different perspective is 100% wrong. Dualistic thinking leads to the kind of broadly inflammatory statements we so often see in our politics.

I hold two convictions regarding this video and the sad, hard truth behind it:

  • I’m deeply grateful for the honest, courageous police officers who put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to provide security for the rest of us; and,
  • Something is horribly wrong when young children from one race in particular, are taught that, in addition to fearing gang predators down the street, they also need to fear their own police. Even when they are doing nothing wrong.

Surely we can embrace the truth about both of these statements, without assuming either one is always/never true. And if we do accept the truth that many black children have learned that the practices and biases of some police officers pose a threat, what do we do about that?

Here are three ideas:

  • No matter what our ethnicity as parents or grandparents, we regularly remind our children to honor, respect, african-american-teen-and-motherand be grateful for the police, firefighters and other first-responders who increasingly risk their lives while protecting ours.
  • For those of us who aren’t African-American, let our children know in the right way, at the right time, that some of their friends might have a very different perspective based on the still-sensitive racial issues we face in American society.
  • We constructively and respectfully support city, county and state-wide efforts to review and, when needed, improve the enormously challenging implementation of police enforcement and protection, especially to minorities in their communities.

What constructive ideas do you have?