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Many television shows have recently portrayed versions of “The Talk,” This Is Us being the most recent of which I am aware. I gather The Talk is a coming of age moment in the life of every Black child where there is communicated the manner in which one is to acquit oneself when pulled over by a police officer. I have some sincere questions about this practice.
Portrayals on TV are always presented in the context of Ferguson, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, etc. Just off the top of my head: Ferguson (amped up criminal thug fresh from committing assault, battery and robbery attacked a police officer and endeavored to take the officer’s gun and use it to murder the officer), Rayshard Brooks (approached for operating a vehicle under the influence, attacked two police officers while resisting arrest, stole a Taser from one of the officers and fired it as the officer while fleeing), and Mr. Floyd (approached by officers after “balling” – injecting a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl anally – and passing counterfeit bills, resisting arrest and dying from the effects of the fentanyl as his lungs were filled with liquid. It must be noted that the officers twice requested an ambulance to tend to Mr. Floyd’s condition).
So how does The Talk approach this? Maybe an admonition to not disarm police officers or attempt to take their weapons from them? Followed by the common-sense observation that, if you should ever successfully acquire an officer’s weapon, don’t attempt to murder the officer? Concluding with, and don’t inject cocaine and fentanyl up your derriere – or anywhere else for that matter? Seriously? There is a need for such a talk?
What is it about Black culture that we are to believe necessitates such warnings? I admittedly come from a predominantly White background. No member of my family ever felt the need to explain the advantages, indeed the necessity, of not attempting to disarm and murder police officers. For that matter, I was never specifically told to avoid robbing stores and driving drunk. I feel that was rather understood. As for the anal injection of fentanyl, again, never really came up.
What am I to make of these more in sorrow than in anger – though there are copious amounts of anger – depictions of this ritual? They seem to say very little about law enforcement and quite a bit about Black culture — none of it good. In what universe are we to believe that an entire race of children needs to be made specifically aware of the seemingly immutable law of the jungle out there that precludes attacking police officers who are simply doing their jobs – to say nothing of balling?
In all seriousness, how is it allowable to portray Black children as lacking in remedial common sense?
I am particularly interested in hearing from anyone who identifies as Black if “The Talk” is a real thing or a media invention. And if it is real, is it the case that Black children really are uniquely unaware of the necessity to not attempt to kill police officers? Or to not engage in the predicate criminality that puts one in contact with police officers?
Do such talks ever point out the consistently professional and compassionate actions of all officers involved in all of these instances? It might be nice to leave our children with a healthy appreciation of law enforcement.
Lastly, I have noted that reference to The Talk is almost always in the context of an understanding that White Americans should feel guilty that such a talk is necessary. If I ever actually felt the need to have such a talk with either of my boys, both of whom I have raised, I would expect no one to feel guilty. But someone would feel greatly embarrassed: me.Published in