How Keeping Our Sons Safe Makes It OK for Whites to Be Racists

The Jordan Davis case led some parents to give their kids “the talk.” But doing so absolves white people of their responsibility to unlearn stereotypes that scare them.

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Jordan Davis

R.I.P. Jordan Davis Facebook Page

The slaying of 17-year-old Jordan Davis by a white man who didn’t appreciate his taste in music had some black people scrambling to give black boys “the talk” about how not to scare white people into shooting them.

The Rev. John Guns, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., was one of them.

Using the trial of 47-year-old Michael Dunn—who, on Nov. 23, 2012, fired nine bullets into the SUV that Jordan and two of his friends were sitting in after he argued with the teens over loud music—as a launching point, Guns talked to black boys about the importance of not exacerbating trouble with people who might be threatened by them and their skin.

At one point Guns brought a young man up on the stage who was wearing a hoodie—which Trayvon Martin was wearing in February 2012 when he was stalked and fatally shot by George Zimmerman—and told him that whenever he walked inside a store, he needed to take the hood off. Better to walk out of the store, he said, than to wind up being killed at age 18 for ... well, scaring some squirrelly store owner into thinking you were there to rob the place.

To be sure, Guns’ advice is sound and pragmatic—and a lot of black parents who love their children are probably repeating it. I understand it.

But I don’t like it.

I don’t like it because as practical as it is, it inadvertently feeds the notion that black youths, and black males in particular, ought to capitulate to racist whites in order not to suffer at their hands.

And any white man who believes that black kids ought to turn down their music because he doesn’t like it, even if they are only sharing the same parking lot for a few minutes, isn’t seeking respect.

He’s expecting submission.

Any white store owner, or night watchman, who expects a black youth to take off his hood because it scares him, even though that black youth has no plans to do anything scary, isn’t asking for respect but for his irrational fears to be coddled.