COMMENTARY: We Must Include Girls In Conversations About Race

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“The sad thing is I have talked to my oldest daughter about this as well,” my friend, a respected journalist, told me. “I’ve told her if she is riding around with a group of her black male school friends she should be aware of the likelihood they will be stopped by authorities and perceived as trouble makers by others and there is little margin for error.”

“Frankly there is no margin for error,” he said. “Our kids don’t get to make the same mistakes that other kids do. Our kids don’t get to react to confrontations the same way others do.”

A devoted dad, my friend makes a lot of sense.

I talk to my teenage daughter, too, about race, injustice and acting responsibly. It’s now evolved into a daily conversation where I borrow a phrase from a dear friend, a mother: “Show good judgment.” Those are three simple, yet powerful words to live by as we send our children into the world.

I wrote this week about a friend from Chicago, a black female physician, who had a sobering conversation with her three school-age sons days before a Florida jury failed to convict Michael Dunn of the premeditated murder of Jordan Davis.

“I presented the concept of “Strange Fruit” to them through poetry, music and the frightening visual …but with Trayvon Martin as an example,” she told me. As a mother, she is understandably concerned about how white men view young black men.

She offered her sons a powerful historical testimony to connect the past to the present. The crisis of perception of young black males in America today is one that could be described as modern-day version of the lynchings of that plagued them into this century.

“Strange Fruit” was recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. The song exposed American racism through the ongoing lynching of black men in the South. A chilling photo of two black men who were lynched as white men celebrated in 1930 inspired teacher Abel Meeropol, who wrote the song. In the video, eerie black-and-white photos of Ku Klux Klansmen in hoods, burning crosses and watching half-nude black men hanging from trees, accompany Holiday’s voice.

It’s critical that we talk to our black boys about the consequences of racism in our society. But as I was reminded firmly this week, we must include our daughters in this discussion, too.

What do you think?

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