In the immediate aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death, The Talk was a buzzphrase in many mouths. The Talk
– the cautions, warnings, do’s and don’ts many parents of African American boys give them as they stretch forward out of childhood into manhood. The Talk is part of the being-a-good-mom checklist, if you’re the mother of an African American boy. It is being responsible, proactive, aware. It is doing what you can to protect a body by carving away the innocence of unawareness. It is making sure that you have done everything you can to prepare them, to prepare to see them sent out into a world in which they are often dehumanized, objectified, stereotyped.
This is a talk that white parents do not give to their sons. Many had not even heard of The Talk before it became part of a national conversation. Yet the notion of “surplus risk
,” that certain parents are compelled to protect their children from danger, is not new. In African-American communities, from Emmitt Till
to Yusef Hawkins
to Trayvon Martin
, parents, especially mothers, have warned and cajoled and wheedled with their sons to take extra precautions, to keep a low profile, to stay away form the police or certain neighborhoods. To stay safe. The talk is as essential to African American mothers as the caution to put on sunscreen is to mothers of fair-skinned children.
Some mothers woke on Monday morning, packing their sons off to camp or school without a care in the world. Some mothers woke that same morning wondering, what can they talk about today?