Black Lives Matter and the Facts of Life

Vintage photo African American Family at Home 1960's

At what age does an African-American learn that “my life doesn’t matter?” These children will grow up to be the most feared, stereotyped and misunderstood in society.

At what age does a black boy learn he is perceived as menacing and dangerous?

At what age is he told of systemic racism and state sanctioned brutality against someone who looks just like him?

At what age does an African-American learn that “my life doesn’t matter?”

These Are the Facts

The facts of life are vastly different if you are black or white.

There comes a time when every Black parent must have “the talk” with their child. No amount of education, manners or talent will protect them from the facts of life of being Black in America..

These are conversations that  white people do not have to have with their children.

Those were facts of life I would learn late.

1967 – Burning Questions For the Baby Boomer

Vintage Ilustration Teens

Vintage 1960’s Illustration Teens from The Life Cycle Library For Young People – Dating

It was 1967 the summer of love and the gaggle of diaper clad baby boomers who had first moved into my suburban Long Island development in the mid 1950’s were all now approaching puberty.

It was time to learn the facts of life.

In splanches and ranchs up and down the block, mothers and fathers were sitting down in their knotty pine early American dens with their offspring to awkwardly have “the talk.” Seated at pedestal dinette sets in swivel chairs bedecked in  flower power  vinyl  in their avocado hued kitchens, questions and answers about the facts of life were being uncomfortably discussed.

Inside one split level home tucked in the cul-de-sac, another set of parents filled with equal dread, sat their 13 year old son down for his “talk.”  But their discussion was less birds and bees and more about life and death. What did it mean growing from a black boy to being a black man in America.

Though the houses were identical, the talks were as different as black and white.

Vintage Photo African American outside their suburban home

Earlier that year, a Negro family had moved into our lily-white neighborhood, with a son just my age.

Ensconced in their newly built American Dream split level with the immaculate manicured lawn, I never imagined their lives proceeded differently from mine. After all, his mother shopped at the same local Food Fair, his dentist dad religiously mowed the lush front lawn, and Roger their son bedecked in Henley shirts and perma-press pants seemed to fit right in. They certainly didn’t seem excluded from the American dream.

But behind closed doors his parents had to prepare him from a world I would never know.  But one that I got a glimpse of on TV that summer.

Smoke and Fire-  The Country Erupts

riots southbend 1967

Riots South Bend Indiana 1967. A police officer and several youths surround bloodied teenager one of 7 wounded by gunfire or other violence on July 1967 the second night of the riots.

That ethereal summer of love contrasted sharply with the blazing race riots that spread from Detroit, to Newark, to Washington DC. It was a summer of smoke and fire as Blacks revolted across the nation as the renewed struggle for civil rights seemed to have a ripple effect.

All the uproar of the riots with exploding heat and violence crackled across the nation and across our RCA TV screens,  bringing the flames of black revolt, the burning ghettos, the  looting streets, and Federal troops in riot gear, directly  into out smartly decorated living rooms.

The riots made the police brutality and injustices all too visible.

newark riots

Newark, New Jersey riots, 1967

I was oblivious that Black parents might have to parent their children differently than white kids because of these injustices. To give them different warnings and reminders when they left the safety of their home.

In the comfort of their Scotch-guarded sleekly designed Mediterranean living room, my African-American neighbors would have to teach their sons to be safe when there was a police encounter, to teach them to do exactly what the officer asked, even if they are being targeted because of their race.

Like generations before them, they had to prepare them for the realities that people of color face. When you leave the front door you would be judged as a black man first.

Facts of Life – It’s as Simple as Black and White

Black Lives Matters and The Facts of Life collage

What Every Teenager Should Know. More than getting a date, the facts of life for a black teen means the goal is staying alive. The criminal justice system is broken when it comes to holding police accountable following deadly shootings.   Michael Brown 17 years old  and  Tamir Rice, 12 years old

Learning the facts of life remain vastly different for a white child than a black child.

Life’s biggest challenges according to a popular mid-century book  entitled Facts of Life and Love For Teenagers, explained what every  teenager should know. Besides brushing up on the birds and bees, the book was chock full of tips such keeping up a snappy conversation, what makes a great date, and the pros and cons of going steady.

What it meant to grow up was very different.

teens dancing SWScan06552

“Young people have always wondered about growing up and becoming men and women,” the book begins. “Some of life’s biggest questions arise as you leave childhood and approach adulthood. Of course you want to know what it means to become a full-fledged man or woman.”

For a white teen maturity came with big responsibilities. Getting “in trouble” meant either getting pregnant out of marriage, an awkward date  or the horrors of a conversational gap on your date.

Trayvon-Martin

Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old unarmed boy was confronted, shot, and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

To be a full-fledged black man means to learn to survive.

Good Manners

teens date parents SWScan06555

Part of the facts of life and love for  white boys and girls was learning the importance of good conduct and courtesy  in  order to get and keep dates. Life was like a box of chocolates for young teens – you never knew what exciting opportunity you might encounter and you needed to be prepared for. Good manners would be a life saver in awkward situations.

“Remember that boasting and shouting complaining and pouting and temper tantrums are unpleasant to others and that courteous listening, thoughtfulness and consideration of others are always pleasing,” the book suggested.

sandra bland

Routine traffic stops turning deadly are becoming all too routine and women of color are often left out of discussion of police brutality. Sandra Bland

A Black teen will also learn good manners can be a life saver…literally.

Part of their “talk” is learning  rules of good conduct especially around police. If you get stopped for a traffic violation: Always use your Sunday school manners; answer questions “yes sir,” “no ma’am”; don’t slouch; keep hands where they can be seen and above all else do not argue. Do not ask questions. Do as you are told. Do not move suddenly. Do not run.

Good manners mean the difference between life and death.

Sometimes.

 

Philando Castile

As the bitter debate about how our police force treats non white citizens escalates, it has exposed a truth many minorities know. After being stopped for a broken tail light, Philando Castile died from being shot through the window of his car by a Police officer in Minnesota.

A Normal Part of Growing Up?

“Whatever your worries, it’s all just normal,” the book reassure the teen. “Some young people may be happily surprised to discover that some of the things they have been worrying about are just normal part of growing up.”

For Black teens, fear will become a normal part of growing up. And it doesn’t matter your car, your college or the street you live on.

African-Americans learn too early their lives don’t matter.

That’s a fact of life.

It’s now time for white adults to have “the talk” among themselves. As a matter of fact, Black lives do matter.

black-lives-matter-african-americans-killed-by-police-2016

You Might Also Find of Interest

A Primer on Police and White Privilege

 

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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17 comments

  1. Brilliant portrait of the two Americas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pierre Lagacé

    Powerful post Sally.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pierre Lagacé

    Make that doomsday…

    Like

  4. Pierre Lagacé

    You can correct this typo if you want.

    I know you understood what I meant. Today in a Québec daily newspaper they were refering to the danger of a civil war because of what is happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The NY Post, (Rupert Murdoch’s right wing tabloid) faced a lot of criticism for its own cover last Friday declaring “Civil War” in large bold print after the tragic Dallas police shootings. It is both incendiary and inflammatory

      Like

      • Pierre Lagacé

        I found this in the New York Post Online…

        The chaos in the moments after a madman opened fire on cops in Dallas last week was made worse for police by the numerous innocent protesters in the crowd carrying powerful weapons — a practice that is legal in gun-loving Texas.

        Dallas officers were forced to detain between 20 and 30 armed civilians for questioning after shooter Micah Johnson shot five cops to death during a Black Lives Matter protest Thursday.

        Police chief David Brown, appearing on CNN, declined to answer questions about gun control, but made it clear that the prevalence of armed protesters — many who donned gas masks and had AR-15-style rifles slung over their shoulders — added to the confusion.

        “Doesn’t make sense to us, but that’s their right in Texas,” Brown explained.

        “But when the shooting started, they began to run. And they began to run at street level across from where shooting was occurring. So for our officers, they were suspects. And I support that belief.”

        As the bullets began to fly, Brown said officers had no choice but to consider any civilian they sawed armed to be a potential combatant.

        The confusion Thursday night briefly made protester Mark Hughes the most wanted man in America.

        A picture of Hughes, wearing a camouflage t-shirt and a long gun slung over his shoulder, was tweeted out by Dallas police during the melee. He later surrendered to cops and was exonerated.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Steven Blumrosen

      Thank you Sally. As usual, you bring history and context to bear on daily headlines. In this matter, which has serious people trying to grapple with,complex issues, you step back and provide some objectivity.

      Pierre Lagacé, things here in the US may be worse than you imagine.

      We are in the midst of a civil war.

      This Civil War was declared by Tea Party activist and former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh against Barack Obama and, presumably, the republic for which the presidency stands, the US.

      In Congress, Walsh had been given some very sensitive positions, including membership on the Committee on Homeland Security. Supposedly, he is level-headed enough to be trusted with our nation’s secrets.

      Though, nobody is perfect. Walsh was “named by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as one of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress.” (http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt/entry/joe-walsh)

      As recently as Saturday, the NYDaily News said “The ex-politician went on to equate the President’s remarks on systemic racism and calls for criminal justice reform in the wake of civilian deaths with ‘accusing cops of being bad and racist.'”

      Read the president’s statements yourself. I don’t think he said or implied that.

      But, back in 2006, the Bush Administration, in an FBI Report that is now declassified, warned of White Supremacists’ infiltration of law enforcement. (http://thegrio.com/2015/05/12/fbi-white-supremacists-law-enforcement/)

      Sometimes, there are really bad people with guns camouflaged in the uniform of those who are sworn to provide us with due process and the equal protection of our laws. (http://fox8.com/2016/07/07/live-video-warrensville-heights-officer-speaks-out-after-her-video-goes-viral/)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pierre Lagacé


    things here in the US may be worse than you imagine…

    I don’t have to imagine. I feel so sorry for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steven Blumrosen

      Gee, thanks. Feel sorry for us, we need the care and concern, and prepare for us. The underground railroad stops at your front door. We appreciate all you have done before, and hope you will be as generous this time. We’ll need food, shelter, clothing, jobs, health care, high speed internet, etc., etc., etc. (all the stuff any immigrant would need to begin life in a new place and become a productive functional contributing member of society).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Must read: Black Lives Matter and the Facts of Life | Envisioning The American Dream | Just Merveilleux

  7. A Tale of Two America’s!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Steven

    Oh, Pierre, one thing I do not know yet is who will be showing up. You may be getting a lot of people like Joe Walsh, when Hillary wins.

    Like

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