Noelani Pearl Hernandez
Tyre Nichols' parents were special guests of President Joe Biden at the state of the union this year. He brought attention to the horrific actions of the police that night they took Tyre Nicholas' life.s
President Biden also brought attention to never having to have "the talk" with his children and how he could never understand the agony of having the conversations. It reminded me of the summer of 2020, right after the murder of George Floyd. The world had witnessed a cold-blooded murder of a black man simply because he was black.
When George Floyd was murdered, the world had been in quarantine for almost half a year, and everyone worldwide watched as Derek Shavuan slowly killed George Floyd. The world was enraged, they were appalled, and they wanted change!
Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Philip Itilong taught us violence can't be met with violence, so we marched.
People marched everywhere. Even with the pandemic, people marched.
My daughter called me and told me she wanted to march. Now there were two real concerns that I had.
1. The pandemic, there was no vaccine and no cure, and people were dying.
2. Jennalynn is brown, she was going with her white friends to march, and there was a pandemic of Black and Brown people dying at an alarming rate at the hands of police.
My daughter was 25, and this was the first time I was having "the talk" with her, and it was an unsettling experience. I am bi-racial, and my mother (Filipina) and father (white) never had "the talk" with me. I had no idea how to have the conversation, so I turned to my husband for guidance.
He is Mexican American and Native American, and My Father in Law was one of the first Latino police officers in our area. We used our life experiences together; we devised a strategy for me to speak to her.
I called her right before she went out to march; I told her how proud I was of her. I felt my voice shake, so I took a deep breath. I remember word for word what I said next, "Jennalynn, you don't look like your friends. You are brown. Emotions are high, and I need you to be careful. I need you to come home, so if the police stop you. Always keep your hands where they can see them, Don't make sudden moves, and don't argue. I'm your first call, and we will do whatever we need to ensure you're safe. Just make it back home."
She said that she understood. I told her I was proud of her again, and then she was off to march.
She called me after that first March and shared with me what she saw and how she felt being part of a movement. She was raised to be an activist, so this fed her soul. When I went to sleep that night, I thanked God for keeping her safe, like I do every night.
That worry has only grown exponentially with my bonus son. The other day I glanced into the kitchen, I realized how much he has grown (taller) in the last year. And at that moment, I was hit with the worry that he, too, would experience this systematic racism differently.
That night I talked to my husband about my worry about our son going out into the world where he would be judged not by his merit but by the color of his skin.
My husband (the best person ever) reassured me that he would prepare him for this world just as his Dad had prepared him. He reminded me that all our children have the benefit of having parents that are DEI practitioners.
"The Tale" is a rite of passage for many Black and Brown families with children. It's the conversation about how to stay alive when interacting with the police, so for my daughter and, subsequently, my bonus son (in the future), it is a necessary experience.
These instructions may sound simple, but they are very complicated when considering the reality of living in a racially biased society. The talk is not just about obeying the law but about survival.
As a parent of brown kids, I thought I would never have to have "the talk" with my kids. "The talk" is a conversation that many parents have with their kids about race and racism. It is a mandatory conversation to have, but it is not an easy one.
Having to have "the talk" was an emotionally overwhelming experience. Not only did we have to unpack our ideas and beliefs about racism, but we also had to convey these ideas to my children in a way that was appropriate for their age and development. We had to carefully explain why people of color are disproportionately targeted and killed by the police.
We had to talk about how the law sometimes doesn't protect us and how racism exists in our society. It was a difficult and uncomfortable conversation, but we knew it was necessary. At the same time, we see this conversation was only part of the process.
This talk is not a one-time event; it's more like an ongoing dialogue and education. We are constantly on the lookout for anti-racist practices and activities that we can use to teach our children and help nurture their understanding of racism and its effects.
The talk is about many things, but it's ultimately about how to stay safe in an unequal and biased society. This talk is about teaching our children how to navigate a world where they may be seen as "the other." We teach them how to interact with police and other authority figures, get help in an emergency, speak up for their rights, and respond to injustice.
This talk is about helping our children form their own opinions and ideas about racism and inequality. We help them to think critically about the world around them and ask important questions like, "What can I do to stand up to racism and inequality?" We empower them to make a difference in the world and to stand up for what is right.
Our children must understand living in an unequal and biased society. We must equip our children with the tools to make conscious decisions instead of fear or ignorance. We need to teach our children to be aware of the systems that exist to oppress certain people and to fight against them. We need to empower our children to use their voices to speak up for what is right.
These conversations are complex, and we must explain to them our experiences with racism and how it has impacted our families and us. Our responsibility is to equip our children with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate a world that is not always fair or just. We must enlighten our children to be informed and equitable citizens and to stand up for what is right.