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The Talk: How identity shapes the way we keep our children safe

Depending on who you are and how you live, this conversation can go a lot of ways

Mike Reisel

The Emancipator is quite obsessed with the idea of The Talk, the one where Black parents convey a different set of behavioral rules and expectations to their children to keep them safe — and alive.

We’re also invested in what that conversation looks like along the lines of ethnicity, ability, sexuality, immigration status, and gender. How does White supremacy and patriarchy — the things that hold us back — affect people living at the intersection of these identities?

They must get a version of The Talk, too.

Starting today, we will find out. Parents who embody these identities will tell us what they tell their children so they can go out in the world and be physically and psychologically safe.

You’ll hear from Curtis Chin, a Chinese American writer who grew up in the Detroit area, telling us about what it was like to be othered. You’ll hear from Omiseke Tinsley and Matt Richardson, a queer couple with a queer daughter and their commitment to keep her safe. Kristen Pope explores the nuances of being young, Black, and female. Nick Martin peels back layers of the Indigenous experience. Rebecca Cokley explores ability, and Vidya Krishnan takes us to families who embody the “model minority,” India’s diaspora in the States. Last but not least, Joanna Schroeder reminds us White supremacy hurts us all, even White children. Look forward to her lessons to keep White children safe from psychic assaults, typically found on social media, designed to move children to a position of hate from a default of love.

We’re inspired by Jabari Asim, the prolific Boston-based author, who spoke powerfully into the moment that was Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 with his viral poem, “The Talk.” The poem read every Black parent’s heart (and auntie’s, uncle’s, and cousin’s) who worry about what happens to Black children when they leave the safety of home each day. The fate of Trayvon Martin in Florida two years earlier and the callous regard of Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014, sent a flood of fear to the forefront in Black communities.

Channeling Langston Hughes, Asim’s “The Talk” begins:

It’s more than time we had that talk

about what to say and where to walk,

how to act and how to strive,

how to be upright and stay alive.

How to live and how to learn,

how to dig and be dug in return.

Our series, The Talk, describes the experience of our cultural landscape and why these lessons endure. We invite you to read and follow The Emancipator as we explore the unwritten “rules” of navigating the high-stakes scenario of living and being a kid in America.

But we also want to know what kind of conversation you give to your children or got from your parents? We encourage you to share your experiences here. We may share a selection on The Emancipator platforms.

Amber Payne and Deborah D. Douglas as co-editors in chief of The Emancipator.

Amber Payne can be reached at arpayne@bu.edu.