Let’s say your Black son comes home one night, scared, out of breath from running. He tells you that some guy with a gun chased him and shot at him, and his girlfriend heard the whole thing on the phone. He stammers that all he was doing was going to the store for a bag of Skittles and iced tea.
Now you have to muster the courage to respond. What do you say? How can you protect him? What can you do to make sure that he comes home safe tomorrow night, and the night after that? You must give him “the Stalking Talk.”
It’s not easy to have “the Stalking Talk,” to tell your child how the stereotype of the threatening young Black male is so deeply ingrained that some people look at him and imagine they see a monster—what one researcher labels as a fear so deep that it mimics our primitive reactions “to spiders and snakes.”
Our country is racially illiterate.
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Howard Stevenson is a Professor of Education and Africana Studies in the Applied Psychology and Human Development Division at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.