A New "Talk" For The Digital Age
1 year ago
Why we need to teach our children to watch what they say on social networks
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not reflect that of the Loop 21.
Generations of black men have been given the same admonishment.
Don’t run from the cops. Keep your hands out of your pockets. Be conscious of where you’re wandering.
By the time myself and other 20-somethings came along, “the talk” had morphed into much less of a formal discussion and into more of an understood rite of passage. Find almost any high school-aged black male and ask him about “the talk.” Whether he received it from his parents or not, he’ll likely be able to give you a rundown of the key points.
At its root, the talk has always been about self-preservation: parents and grandparents equipping their offspring with practical knowledge — from how to act when you’re pulled over (“keep your hands on the wheel”) to which neighborhoods to avoid after dark — out of the hope their child won’t be the next Emmitt Till, the next Rodney King or the next Trayvon Martin.
But injustice has followed us into the digital realm.
If the slaying of 17-year-old Florida teen Trayvon and the subsequent attempts by some to vilify the boy based on his social media accounts have taught us anything, it’s that the time has come for black folk to adopt a new talk.
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Many black parents take comfort in knowing they’ve instructed their children on how to conduct themselves in public. But often overlooked is how black teens are carrying themselves online and away from their often not-so-social-media-minded parents.
Not a day goes by that my Facebook and Twitter streams aren’t full of others’ postings of rap lyrics, drug references and general ignorance. Individually, those posts, often from friends of my younger siblings, seem harmless. But it’s worth asking: have we allowed our young people to mindlessly perpetuate on social media the stereotypical characterization of the dangerous black male that we endlessly battle in the mainstream media?
As black men, we fight a daily battle against a society trained for 200 years to look down on, write off and fear us, therefore, we must insist on a higher standard for our social media usage.