Lord knows I’ve had my criticisms of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry in the past–her decision to bring on notorious climate disinformer Bjorn Lomborg to discuss the climate crisis in April 2014, her unnecessary apology to Mitt Romney in December 2013, etc.–but I wish I had the chance to thank her in person for her segments today on the death of Eric Garner after a confrontation with New York Police Department earlier this month. The segments moved me to tears.
I heard “The Talk” when I was 12 years old, shortly after Charles Stuart committed suicide in Boston in January 1990. In the fall of 1989, Stuart infamously blamed a fictional African-American suspect for the murder of his pregnant wife, Carol DiMaiti Stuart; after Stuart’s story unraveled, and it became evident that he murdered his wife, Stuart performed an Olympic-quality dive off the Tobin Bridge.
“The Talk” was pretty simple: always be respectful towards law enforcement, always be conscious of your surroundings, always remember that people acquire stereotypes about people of color from television news, and always understand that while it may be unfair, you have an obligation at all times to try to counteract those stereotypes. “The Talk” was depressing, to be sure, but I absorbed the advice, and I never forgot it.
There will be a day when mothers and fathers of color no longer have to sit their kids down and read the sad script that is “The Talk.” As Eric Garner’s death reminds us, that day isn’t on the horizon anytime soon.
Five summers after the bizarre arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it’s clear that the issues of race and policing in America are nowhere near being resolved. Can we start resolving them now?