Once again, I am having to update “the talk” I have with my young men

Police cars are not the only thing we have to be on the lookout for.

Well, I guess black folk across America will be updating “the talk” once again.

You know, the one where we remind each other to keep our mouths shut and both hands in plain view when we encounter law enforcement. It is an unfair burden we carry in the Black community but necessary if we want to stay alive. The talk is a painful routine that I go through with many of the young Black men who come through the doors of my organization. I always tell them when encountering law enforcement to, “Stay calm and remember the talk.” I always felt that if my young men did this, they would live to see another day. However, the talk needs a reboot; and it needs to include a warning about white folk with guns in general and taking action against racism.

The recent lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man murdered in daylight by two white racist men in Brunswick, GA made me realize that once again, I had fallen back into the illusion. The history of Blacks in America should have taught me otherwise. We are a people who have never had the luxury of feeling safe. Our ancestors were pulled from their beds and hung on trees all over this nation, some for just making eye contact with white folks. Bombs were thrown into their living room windows, crosses were burned on their lawns, and their homes and land were taken from them time and time again. In short, Black folk have never been safe.

But, even with this violent history, I still wanted to believe and hope that, while our lives do not matter much these days on our neighborhood streets, in our schools, or even in our churches, surely in 2020 we can be safe to jog in broad daylight? Then reality slaps me in the face saying, “I am sure 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery felt safe jogging in his neighborhood before two white men murdered him. I’m sure 26-year-old Botham Jean felt safe watching television in his living room before a white off-duty police officer burst into his apartment in Dallas and fatally shot him.”

Thinking we are safe as Black people anywhere is an illusion. Our history and the continuous killing of Black lives tell us so. Until we address the systemic racism, white power, white privilege, white supremacy that is present in America; more Black folk will continue to be murdered. We must agitate, we must demand justice, we must legislate, we must organize, we must protest, we must riot, we must vote. These days police cars, pickup trucks, Karens, racist white people, and white people with guns serve as a reminder of the many Black lives we have lost — and of the updated talk I need to have with my own young men that includes doing something to stop future Blacks from being lost.

Daniel J. Downer is Executive Director of The Bros in Convo Initiative, a community org empowering Black bisexual, gay, same-gender-loving, and queer men.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store