1. "F-cking punks. These a--holes. They always get away."
You could quote neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman himself, telling your kids that "f-cking punks. These a--holes. They always get away," but that could be inappropriate. For one, he used profane language, but more importantly, what Zimmerman said is all too true.
Of course, you'll have to explain that at the time of the 911 call made last year, Zimmerman wasn't talking about himself getting away. Zimmerman was referring to Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old boy he saw walking down the street wearing a hoodie. After being told not to follow, Zimmerman did so anyway and later killed Martin. After claiming "self-defense," Zimmerman was acquitted of criminal charges.
When your child asks you why Zimmerman got "away," and Martin did not, lead in with the next point.
2. The Supreme Court says the South is no longer racist.
If your own society can fail you, justice systems designed to govern society are perfectly capable of failing you too. For example, in June, the Supreme Court struck down a monumental provision of the civil rights law that determined which states must have alterations to their voting laws cleared by the government. While many racially-charged injustices happen every year, High Court said "things have changed dramatically" in the South. The declaration ultimately implies that precautions to prevent racism aren't necessary because at least things are still better than it was before. Tell your children not to accept this notion just because a Supreme Court justice told them to. Warn your children of the dangers of being dependant on false senses of comfort established by the status quo. Encourage your children to follow the law, but prepare them to be vocal if and when the law fails them.
3. A white celebrity chef fantasizing about plantation weddings is entirely normal behavior.
Explain to your children that this could be what someone is thinking about them. Assure them that it could be a teacher, a Hollywood star, or even an employer. Tell them that a person placed in a position of influence and power might have an idea about people with their skin coloring that goes back long before they were born. Tell them that these kinds of people could still be grieving because someone's grandfather "lost the war" and "didn't know what to do" with themselves with "no one to help" them. Explain to your children that "help" in this context is synonymous to slavery. Show your children that this person replaced the word "help" with "workers." Instruct your child on knowing the difference. Talk about conscious and unconscious, conditioned racism. Try your best to explain how someone could have preconceived notions about groups of people without taking accountability for those judgements. Your child may be hurt the first time they experience discrimination. Arm them with the truth. Tell your children to speak up when a person of power demonstrates prejudice so that steps can be made to remove them from that position of influence. Afterwards, teach your children how to bake their own damn biscuits.
4. Media will try to teach you what it means to be black and people will question why you won't do what you're told.
Your children will turn on the television and receive instructions on what it means to be black. From art, we discern truth. Film, music and social media has its own way of developing social constructs -- there is a temptation to be what we see and expect everyone that we see to be that way in real life. When the messages perpetuated to our children are predominantly controlled by individuals trying to sell something, either a product or an idea, your children's best interest is the last thing they are thinking about. Also, when media outlets trying to accurately depict groups of people are egregiously lacking in diversity, proper representation is compromised. A famous white female singer will say she wants to sing something that "feels black," reduce a culture simply to trends such as "twerking," and racial social paradigms will be discussed in the weight of 70 million page views. Tell your children that what is expected of you will be used later to define you. Tell your children that it is okay to break down social constructs to its most basic form to eliminate influence. Tell your children that it is okay to question the expectation rather than follow it. Tell your children to refuse, disrupt and challenge everything someone says people of color should be.
5. If racism were dead, Martin would still be alive.
There is nothing more dangerous than complacency. The High Court may tell your children that times have changed and that may inspire something far more disastrous than ignorance: indifference. Knowing that something is wrong and getting too comfortable with what's wrong is a quietly destructive weapon. What individuals choose to pay attention to is currently being measured in Tweets and Facebook status likes. Tell your kids not to accept that this is "just the way it is" and teach them that discomfort is what leads to revolution. Encourage your children to speak, even if they are the first to say it out loud. Show your children that the trepidation of judgement is far less damning than the guilt of not acting when they had the chance.
6. There will be reasons to be afraid, but do not hide your family.
Parents' first instinct is to protect their child from any and all danger. Unfortunately, one cannot solely rely on being the perfect parent and teaching your children all the right things. The reality is, preventative measures go but so far. There is nowhere to hide your children. While you may teach your children all of the right things, you could still lose them. They could still lose you. You could encourage your children to do safe activities with friends, let them go to a movie theater instead of a bar. But what about those innocent people slain in 2012 at the Aurora movie theater? You could move your children to a safer state, but what about those children tragically shot down in Connecticut? You could say race had nothing to do with the Zimmerman trial, relying on hopes that things would end the same way if it were a black man on trial. But what about the black man convicted of manslaughter in 2007 for killing an unarmed white teenager? What about when a black Florida woman was sentenced to twenty years for shooting warning shots last year?
There is no comfort anyone can offer Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain Martin. While her son's assailant walks free, she is sentenced to years of wondering what she could have done differently to keep her son alive. But the answer isn't finding new places to hide.
If your family experiences racial injustices, show it. If your family is benefiting from racial progress, show it. Be the talking point in an ongoing conversation about race until there is nothing left to change.
When Emmett Till was brutally murdered after allegedly whistling at a white woman, his mother, Mamie Till, demanded an open casket.
Till's mother explained: "I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby."
Follow suit. Let the world see your baby.
Follow Gabrielle Dunkley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lgabriellel