Background Noise

I don’t remember giving THE TALK. I talked way too much for my kids (and my students). Ask my kids (biological or school related)….if I talked constantly. I was always talking about issues, right and wrong, behavior, respect, race, gender, sex, emergencies, dignity, acceptability, responsibility, apologizing, looking, listening, communicating, points of view,circumstances, choices, consequences, health, safety,community.

THE TALK used to mean ‘The Birds and the Bees”. Lately, THE TALK has been referenced with regard to racial profiling. Many parents of older kids or adult children have commented about having to give THE TALK to their non-caucasian children. Recently NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio commented that he had to “train” his son (who is biracial) to be very careful if encountered by a police officer.

I had always assumed that all parents, regardless of race, taught their children, regardless of race or gender, to be low key with the police. Teaching acceptable behaviors toward authority figures as well as from authority figures was part of the job of parenting and educating. 

Likewise, when those in positions of power abuse their circumstances, they need to be discussed and challenged . These are constant conversations. We must keep talking about right and wrong, personal responsibility, safety, and all the other non-sexy stuff that kids hate hearing about, even if they don’t want to talk about them.

The dual outrages of racism and sexual abuse that are far too frequent, must be talked about. How is there still so much confusion? THE TALK, must not only be these conversations, but must be connected to so many other issues.

All my talking and talking may have seemed like background noise to kids, but I am confident that they actually heard and got the messages. Noise essentially disrupts. We need to disrupt the complacency that is not only disempowering, but dangerous. These conversations are the background for creating clarity and justice and hopefully, safety.

Conversations about racial profiling, criminal behavior, abuse of power, sexual behavior, etc., are necessary before kids are 18. Considering different points of view and potential misperceptions are necessary for clarity, and for avoiding unintended consequences. We need to provide some cacophony for our kids, regardless of their backgrounds. They need to know how to be responsible to themselves and to others.

The young woman who is wearing sexy clothes is not asking to be raped, nor does she deserve to be raped. The young woman who is drunk is not asking to be raped, nor does she deserve to be raped. Certainly, the young woman who is passed out, who can’t ask for anything, does not deserve to be raped. We still need to tell our daughters and sons that this happens; that people take advantage in so many circumstances, even when they can get away with criminal behavior. We need to talk to all boys and girls, men and women. These are conversations for everyone, and should be part of everyone’s background.

It is not THE TALK. It is the environment of healthy agitation; of regular reminders and questions, pointers and examples to disrupt assumptions or matters that kids may not think matter to them.  They matter to all of us, and all children and adults need to practice thinking critically and being aware of consequences–even unintended consequences.

We all had some background noise from our parents and teachers. Some of us are noisier than others. If only certain talks are had at certain moments between certain people, we are all missing out, too often to dangerous results. A singular talk needs to become more pervasive, like background noise that we can all hear regularly.

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