Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Talk With Your Kids

Greetings readers.  I wanted to make a quick blog posting today and I wanted to share something with all of you. 

Today I had a long conversation with my son.  He's nearing his 13th birthday and I've noticed some things.  He's getting older and his life is rapidly changing.  Now my son and I are close, as is the case with all my children.  We talk all the time.  Still, I felt it was important to reach out to him and discuss some things in heavy detail.  It was a great albeit tough conversation.  It was uncomfortable at times.  But it was a great conversation nonetheless and he and I were both happy it took place.

I'm sharing this because I want to remind all the parents out there who are doing whatever they can to raise their children the best way they know how.  Talk to your kids.  Really.  Talk to them.  It sounds so simple but you'd be surprised at how many parents simply don't do this.  As I have always asserted parenting is by far the most important job you'll ever have.  You will be surprised at how far just a little communication goes.  It will solve a host of problems and preempt a host more.

I also want to stress that talking to them means exactly that.  Talk TO them.  Talk WITH them.  Don't just bark instruction.  Telling children to "Do what I say" is not talking to them.  Sure there are some things that are non negotiable.  Sure there are times where they must do what you say and that's the end of it.  But you also have to remember to keep the lines of communication open.  You also have to remember that sometimes you're going to need to converse with them.  Hear their thoughts.  Hear their feelings.  Respect their positions.  It's not as simple as saying "No" all the time.  In fact, rarely is it ever that simple.

You have to remember that society is going to bombard your kids with all kinds of things.  You wont be with them all the time.  You wont be able to shield them from everything.  It's simply not possible.  It is better to arm them with knowledge.  It's better to prepare them with the truth.  Then not only will you be able to shield and protect them, they will be able to shield and protect themselves.  Society is going to tell them all kinds of lies about their bodies.  About their minds.  About their race.  About their gender.  About their sexuality.  Without the knowledge and open discussion only a parent or close loved one can provide, the effects on their self image can be devastating.

Also be frank.  Be straight.  Speak plainly.  Be open.  Be firm.  Kids are fine tuned BS detectors.  They'll know if you aren't being genuine.  They'll know if you aren't being straight with them.  Don't sugar coat your words or sugar coat a discussion.  It will greatly diminish the impact.  Be loving and be compassionate.  Be respectful and be sensitive.  But put it down plainly.

This goes not only for parents but anyone in the role of mentor also.  Please.  Talk with your kids.  They need us.  We've been down the road they've traveled.  How many times have you said to yourself "I wish someone had talked to me about [x]"?   You don't want your kids in their 20s, 30s, and 40s saying those things.  So build with them.  Initiate.   Have those tough conversations.  You'll be really, really happy you did.  Thanks for reading.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Just A Thug

Think for a moment.  Think about how many times you've heard the word "thug" in the past few months.  People wield that word in a very dehumanizing fashion.  There is a reason for that.  It's all very deliberate.  You see once we have successfully dehumanized someone it's easy for society to justify just about anything that happens to them.  It's how we think.  If we humanize the victims of police brutality we are likely to feel empathy for them.  We are more likely to speak up and speak out.  So society dehumanizes these victims.  They become "thugs".  With this word comes a host of prejudices.  Empathy is replaced with contempt.  Compassion is replaced with judgment. 

Think about some of the victims for a moment.  Think about Freddie Gray or Mike Brown or Eric Garner.  These men we all killed by police in broad daylight.  Yet all we heard about was how violent they were.  Or their arrest records.  Or how they might have been breaking the law.  The fact that they were murdered became secondary to their misdeeds.  The fact that Eric Garner was choked to death became secondary to the fact that he may have been selling loose cigarettes.   People were perfectly willing to look at everything except his brutal murder.  Why?  Well there is a reason for that too.

Many people don't want to feel empathy.  Their hearts are filled with hatred.  Or anger.  Or fear.  They don't want to relate to those victimized.  They look for any excuse to look the other way.   Labeling these victims "thugs" is an easy out.  They are thugs.  Bad people.  Hell they aren't even people.  They are criminals.  Scum.   Unscrupulous vermin who deserve what they get.  Labeling these victims "thugs" relieves them of the burden of human decency and compassion and gives them an excuse to dismiss the horrific nature of the deaths of these men.  .

What's really sad is that by taking away the humanity of these and other victims those people don't realize they forfeit their own.  By taking away the rights of these victims those people don't realize they forfeit their own.  Because at any given time they too can be victims of police brutality.  They too can be victims of the behavior they sanction.  They don't even see that by shuttling the humanity of so called "thugs" they have become worse than any "thug" on the street.

This is an old formula though.  It's been used time and again.  Think about how many times you've heard something to this effect: 

"I heard about that woman that got raped.  Personally I don't have any pity for her.  She was a bit of a whore.  I know three guys that she slept with off of the top of my head.  Plus look at how she dresses.  I mean skirt all hiked up.  Top cut low showing all that cleavage.  I mean she's practically asking for it you know?  Yeah I know rape is wrong and everything.  But for God's sake pull your skirt down.  Stop showing off all your assets.  Stop being so promiscuous.  I'm just saying...."

Now if that disturbs you, it should.  It's deplorable.  It's disrespectful.  It's outrageous.  It's also the same thought process people  use when speaking about young black men and police brutality.  It's equally deplorable. It's equally disrespectful.  It's equally outrageous.  As I said it's an old formula.  Unfortunately old tricks are usually the most dangerous and most effective.  It's the same blueprint used with every disenfranchised and oppressed group.  Dehumanize them.  Shame them.  Then blame them for their own plight.  It works with the poor.  It works with rape victims.  It works here.

So when you are building and speaking with someone about police brutality listen out for the word "thug".  Pay attention when someone says they were "just a thug".  It will tell you much about the character of that person and what is in their hearts.  Thanks for reading.

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