I got a lot of good feedback from the class, and have a better idea of the changes I need to make going forward. For example, I need to look up and engage the audience more. I’m still working on making the giving of the speech more like a conversation, and less as something that was meant to be read. Goals for next week’s final speech is to have a more polished deck, keep a better eye on time, and make edits to make it sound more conversational.
Hello, my name is Kellee, and I’m here to talk about the experiences black children and young adults have as they learn to navigate their world. I’d like you to try and imagine a time as a child when you had a serious conversation with your parents. Perhaps it was that a new sibling was on the way, your parent got a new job, and the family was moving, or perhaps it was as awkward as the dreaded birds and the bees conversation. Now imagine sitting down, as perhaps a 12 year old, with your parents. They’re a little stilted, maybe nervous as you arrive, tipping you off to the fact that this isn’t going to be a quick or easy conversation.
The talk is a conversation that black parents have to prepare their children for police encounters — out of fear, mainly, that these interactions can go horribly wrong, ending with their children dead. While many families within black communities have had these conversations with their children for generations, recent events have made these conversations even more important.
This often leads to anger from these families, as the majority don’t have to have these conversations with their young children. This in turn, leads to Black children, teens, and young adults, to constantly have to explain, and often defend, their fears and lived experiences.
In 2003, I was in Norfolk, VA for my fraternity’s national convention. It was late, and to get some air, two of my fraternity brothers and I grabbed hoodies, and took a walk in the city. We’d hoped to find someplace to grab a drink, or perhaps a bite to eat. Instead, we found that most of the places we’d planned to go, were closed. As we walked back to the hotel, we were trailed through the streets by a cop car.
The police officer didn’t speed up, or turn his lights on. He just followed us through the dark streets for a couple of blocks, before passing us, and continuing on his way. When we realized that we were being followed, I immediately flashed back to the conversation I’d had with my parents who grew up during the civil rights era. I was scared, and didn’t know if we were going to be a statistic.
In my research, I found a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that explains the situation further. In 2014, researchers studied 176 mostly white, male police officers, and tested them to see if they held an unconscious “dehumanization bias” against black people by having them match photos of people with photos of big cats or apes. Researchers found that officers commonly dehumanized black people, and those who did were most likely to be the ones with a history of using force on black children in custody.
Recently, training classes for police officers have increased to help combat the issue of unconscious bias. However, no one knows if the training is actually works, and there’s little guidelines to say how the classes should go. These biases often inform how police officers and those in places of authority interact with the people they are supposed to protect or lead.
It’s easy to see in the news and in politics, that numbers and percentages are easy to spin so that the speaker (or political party) can use to further their agenda. I feel that having a narrative helps to make the ‘other’ more relatable.
In conclusion, I plan to build an interactive experience that allows people to experience other’s lived experiences. Within black communities, the onus is often put on us to validate our lived experiences. It is my hope that this experience will encourage conversation, even if it’s uncomfortable.