News & Politics

Watch As Black Parents Talk to Their Kids About the Police

No parent wants to have this talk, but it can mean the difference between life and death.

Among the unique traditions observed by African-American families is “the talk,” during which black parents sit their children down and tell them how to deal with the police. It’s an emotional conversation that requires parents to acknowledge racism, state-backed terror, inequality, America’s devaluing of black lives, police violence, and death, with children who sometimes haven’t aged into double digits.

That conversation—which you can watch in the video below—is both necessary and heartbreaking, a testament to the horrors this country tolerates in deference to white supremacy. Several parents and children of various ages have frank and often tear-filled conversations about a harsh reality that requires black kids to shed their childhoods in order to stay alive.

The video opens with a father acknowledging that these lessons have already begun in this home, as his daughter demonstrates what she has learned. With a voice as small as her little frame, she raises her hands in the air and gives a statement she has committed to memory: “I’m Ariel Sky Williams. I’m 8 years old. I’m unarmed and I have nothing that will hurt you.”

It’s striking to watch this tiny girl deliver that speech as you recall the necessity of her learning it. These lessons can mean the difference between life and death. Tamir Rice was only 12 years old when police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed him at a Cleveland playground.

Studies show that people, including police officers, view black kids as less innocent and older than their actual years. Researchers also find whites are less empathetic about black and Latino children’s physical pain, and that African-American minors are more likely than white kids to be tried as adults and given hefty sentences for the same crimes. While parents are primarily concerned about police brutality and murder, the entire criminal system of injustice offers yet more reasons to fear for their children.

Watch the video, made by Cut, in its entirety above.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.