Although all the details in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin remain unclear, the incident has led to many discussions about how young black males are viewed in American society, and what that means for the people who raise them.
In an interview with NPR, author Donna Britt described "the talk" black parents have with their children.
"The talk is what many black parents have with their sons - and daughters, but more, probably more often, their sons," she said. "It's a preparatory explanation and a warning, to let them know what's out there for them. You know, when they shift from the adorableness of childhood into, you know, their early preteen and teen years, where they can perceived as dangerous, as threatening, as things that most of them really aren't."
Britt will join The Daily Circuit Friday Roundtable along with Hazel Park Preparatory Academy Principal Delores Henderson and McNally Smith College of Music's Toki Wright.
VIDEO: Trayvon Martin Case Sparks New Protests, Debate Over Race
From Deborah in Minneapolis via Send Us a Question:
"My bi-racial son told me when he was 12 that when he waved at police officers, they no longer waved back at him but instead leered at him.
The Friday Roundtable, we're talking about the Trayvon Martin case.
Guest Toki Wright.
Donna Britt's advice to her son.
Our son , a white kid who attended DeLaSalle high school, which has a very diverse population from all over the city.
We have had very serious conversations with him about being careful when he hangs out with his black friends so that he doesn't do or say anything in public that may cause trouble for them.
He was initially very resistant to what we had to say. He was sure that while "this-may-have-been-our-experience", but not "like-it-is-today."
After seeing and experiencing more, our son saw that we were right.
Now he has a deeper understanding of his own privilege as a white male and a healthy respect of the issues his black friends face. It's important that white families have this conversation as well.
How much do attitudes regarding young black men have to do with the systematic criminalization of blacks in the South after the Civil War as depicted in the documentary "Slavery by Another Name"?
More about the documentary Slavery by Another Name.
Jeremy asks, "What does it say about our preconceptions of race in general when we right away assume an action against an african american was racially motivated?"
Elizabeth in Plymouth asks (via our Send Us a Question link):
""It still baffles me that many white people don't acknowledge there is such a thing as white privilege. Why do you think that is?"
Matthew in Minneapolis (via Send Us a Question),
" Zimmerman wasn't a police officer-imagine if he was and in plain clothes. How different would media coverage be? Would there be rallys or assumed guilt?"
My son and I have talked about this quite a bit.
The conversations have been tough - I struggle with balancing the preservation of his adventurous, independent spirit while hoping to maintain his safety.
I keep imagining Trayvon and the fear he must have felt - and my heart just jumps into my throat.
What has been hard for me is that young black youth have been assuming I am racist because I am a white male.
My heart breaks that they already have so much anger in their heart.
This case illustrates why vigilante justice is so perilous.
How can self-defense argument on the basis of 'Stand your Ground' stand when the
killer was instructed by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the victim?
The real criminals are the gun lobby and the lawmakers in these 16 states that allow for these mindless 'kill first, ask questions later' laws to exist.
I feel strongly that we white mothers need to have "the talk" with our children as well.
The version white children need to hear is that their friends of color have very different experiences in our white majority culture. They need to know that this is real. They need to know that people who are different are not to be feared.
I am a woman with a large chest - I purposefully wear conservative clothing because when I don't, I get even more harrassment and assumptions made about me .
I wish desperately I could dress the way I want but I can't - why dress like the popular stereotype of a criminal?
Freedom of dress SHOULD be a reality but it's not thanks to small-minded bigots who walk among us.
Have there been any studies that have focused on clothing vs. race?
Would be interesting to take same person dressed in hoodie, pants down around their knees and gold chains and then take them dressed in jeans, a golf shirt and standing tall. I bet people's reactions would be very different.
I have made comments to Mpls Police officers that would get people of color thrown in jail, at least. I put on my best business drag and they look at me in stunned disbelief.
Years ago, as a white stepmom to a black teenage boy, my husband & I got the call one evening that he was being held for shoplifting a ballcap at a suburban store.
It was true & we felt he was lucky to be allowed to pay & let go. What was unfair was that he was with 2 white friends, who also shoplifted ballcaps but were not stopped. He had to learn from that that life is unfair & he had be better to expect to be treated the same as his white friends.
I am an early sixties white gay male, and they annot believe thier ears. i have always said the Minnesota is the most racist place i have ever lived. Mn nice is a lie.
While there are many troubling aspects of this case, the way a person dresses is important. I am a middle aged white man. If I dressed in a certain way and walked through a certain area, I would definately attract attention.
I'm white, grew upon the 60s in an all white community.
When we were listening to court-ordered
integration of the Little Rock High School, my parents had their OWN reverse-type discussion w/me when I was a teenager about race.
They both made it clear they'd disown me if they ever found out I'd ever judged or discriminated against a person by his/her skin color & that it's actions and words that make a person. That's stayed with me forever.
@Dave "Attracting attention" is very different from getting murdered.
In theory, agree that people should be able to dress how they want.
Reality is that all people react to others based on how they look- punk, grunge, gangsta, prep, diva. We form impressions based on people's clothing and "look."
It takes knowing a person to get past that to who they really are.
The roundtable guests Delores Henderson and Toki Wright.
I am a 66 year old black woman lawyer with a short afro haircut.
I have been stopped so many times by the police when I am driving at night. When they see that I am woman and not a young man, they always thank me and let me go.
When I ask why I was stopped, they say "just checking." I know that I am being stopped because I look like a young black man. The police do racially profile black youth.
I have the same question as Jeremy.
At the same time, we need to stop seeing black boys as trouble, but we also need to stop seeing whites as racists.
Even if we ever get over race, we will always - I hope - have different cultures.
We - African-Americans, European-Americans, Asian-s, Arab-s, whatever - have different cultures and will always not know everything about each other's cultures.
We need to respect one another's cultures and at the same time respect our own. AND we can't expect that everybody will love our culture, just that they will respect our right to it, that they won't mind us having it.
When I traveled through Tunisia, being blonde haired and blue eyed and speaking french, I was labeled "normand" and treated much differently than my English speaking friends. They were far more standoffish and avoided me because of the history that Tunisia and France shared.
@Every Woman The reason why "freedom of dress" isn't reality is because people keep conforming and accepting the stereotype by not wearing a hoodie in an attempt to address the problem without addressing the underlying real problem which is racism.
@Jackie, that's why I said "while there are troubling aspects of this case"...no one should be murdered.
We all know that what Zimmerman did is wrong.
But, in general, it doesn't matter what race you are, Kids dress in a way to get attention...my son included...and sometimes its the wrong kind of attention that they get...my son included.
I am a white 33yr old college educated small business owner.
Hoodies have been a regular part of my wardrobe for well over a decade. Until this case, I had never associated hooded sweatshirts with skin color. Geraldo Rivera is clueless.
Can someone post the phone number that was mentioned?
Hazel Park Prep phone number given our by Delores Henderson: 651-293-8970
I started studying Chinese when I was in junior high - which was eons ago. I used to get stared at and told how admirable I was when I visited China, and it was all because of being white.
When I, or other foreigners, go to China now, that reaction is gone - at least among the economically empowered in China.
The old phenomenon still appears in parts of rural China. Those peasants still are economically dis-empowered and are viewed as low-class, almost as another race by the urban up-and-coming.
We can control how to view and use our differences, anywhere on earth.
They just mentioned the devaluing of black life in America - by blacks themselves. That's precisely what I was trying to get at in my comments about the Chinese peasant - that they devalue themselves, as well as society devaluing them.
I am a Minneapolis teacher and I think it is imperative to talk about race--institutionalized racism, racial profiling, white privilege... with all students and families.
My awareness and understanding about race has grown every year. I am a white woman that has conversations about race and racial inequities on a regular basis. All students need to understand, see how African American Men are treated in our society.
Brent Staples wrote a powerful essay, "Black Men and Public Space" that I use as discussion starter. We all need to be having this discussion. That is how change will come about. I work for change!
Ed note: Here is a PDF of that essay.
This is why the teaching of Ethnic Studies (eliminated in Arizona) is necessary!
Metropolitan State University has an outstanding Ethnic Studies program. If I may also add, Ethnic Studies programs are not created equal. I think we need to have these programs mandatory in High School.
Two years ago I had a girlfriend of color with 3 grown sons, she gave a few talks and more to other youth. Heart wrenching to hear that has to happen.
At 45, I remember when my good Lutheran Norwegian mother was alarmed when I was dating a black girl (that was 1988-89)
"Don't say that! she said, when I asked her "why?" she said "we should stay with our own kind" I told her "we are are own kind! The HumanKind!", a few years later she went as far as to say some of her favorite comedies were black ones like "Fresh Prince of Bel Air".
Fortunately, integration happens as her polamourous egalitarian entheogenic neopagan son continues beyond her 1995 transition to the Clear Light. The even last night at the U of M for Trayvon Martin was moving and there were so many people there! May we really understand the Human Race and Win-Win with all beings, after all what a better way to make the most of our HumanKindness?
My parents did not raise me to harbor negative attitudes about any other race, racist or otherwise. I will not raise my kids that way. I know no parents who do.
I have the same questions about who are these people who teach their kids to be racist? And how dare they?
I don't know them - but I do know they exist. I want blacks and other races to know that not all of us are purposefully ingraining racism in our kids, we're doing our very best to do the opposite. And we're completely imperfect and can't fix the culture, we can only do our best.
@KerriMPR Was told I'm a cultural ambassador for Black America. First heard that at age eight. Teachers, mentors, family, they all said it.
The talk of kids shouldn't dress with the hoodies, makes me think of how people talk about women who have been attacked and we hear "she shouldn't have dressed like that". Somehow how it becomes the victim's fault.
The comment about the 12-year-old no longer being able to waive at police crushes me. Tears are running. I think of that poor little boy. How could I hug my boy and explain to him and love him and help him face the horror of knowing he will be viewed as dangerous, less-than for the rest of his life? So horribly horribly awful.