I must state that I diligently searched my mental Rolodex for that moment when my father sat me down to have “the talk.” And try as I might, I could not remember such a moment. In a desperate attempt to ensure that I was not in error, I called my father to ask him when did we have “the talk.” After a momentary pause, my father responded, “shoot we ain’t never have no talk. Wasn’t much of a need for one then.”
Now I am certain that you are thinking that “the talk” I am alluding to deals with matters such as abstinence, safe sex, hormones, and adolescence. And you would certainly be wrong. “The talk” I am alluding to has absolutely nothing to do with sex and everything to deal with ‘the boys in blue.’ As I thought about my childhood, it dawned upon me that when I grew up ‘the boys in blue’ were not automatically viewed as unregenerate evil.
To drive home his point, my father recounted one of his favorite stories of my getting separated from the rest of the family during a visit to Cedar Point, the world greatest amusement park located in Sandusky Ohio, for the Detroit-Empire Steel Mill annual workers picnic. An officer found me, an eight-year-old child aimlessly wandering through the park with tears streaming down his face and reached out to aid me. Ironically at the same moment, one of my father’s co-workers, and his wife, saw me speaking to the officer. Indicative of the collectivist mentality that under girded our community during late-seventies, they approached the scene and inquired what was going on. Eventually I was presented a choice, I could either remain with the officer or leave with my father’s co-worker, and as I am certain you could guess, I chose to remain with the officer.
My father tells this story if for no other reason than to drive home the irony between my favoring the police as a child to my current status as one of ‘the boys in blue’ most vociferous critics. The only way that I can explain this transformation is through the words of Biggie Smalls, “Damn, things done changed.”
My father’s recollection birthed an introspective examination of what has occurred in the period between my youth and contemporary society in regards to how officers are viewed by not only African-American men, but also the youth that we have sired and desperately seek to protect ‘by any means necessary.’
It is this desperate desire to protect our own that leads today’s African-American parents to speak with their children regarding the perils of dealing with the police before we address matters of safe sex. Such priorities can only be attributed to the innumerable African-Americans, regardless of age or gender, who have had their lives irreparably harmed, if not terminated, by local ‘law enforcement officers.’
Now as to what we should teach our children regarding their interactions with ‘the boys in blue’, such matters are reserved for individual parents to decide. However, one thing is for certain, it is no longer an option for any of us to not have ‘the talk’ with our children, because as I am certain that each and every one of you understand, their lives are in peril each moment of the day by a host of lethal enemies, unfortunately, our tax dollars pay for the presence of one of the most obvious dangers.
James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race, and Culture