the Black Man Code

Over the last few weeks I have been listening to the out of control coverage and reaction to the tragic killing of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin.  Honestly, this whole situation reminds me of a similar tragic situation that happened when I was younger in my home town. I remember my father sitting me down and telling me “the Black Man code”, though he didn’t frame it as such.  In that conversation I remember my parents reminding me about Emmett Till, a young black male who was murdered (to put it lightly) for “whistling at a white woman” while visiting relatives in 1955.  All of these memories and more were triggered while reading an article by Jesse Washington on Yahoo news.

I knew I that our family was far from alone in laying out these instructions. Across the country this week, many parents of minority children will be having this talk with their children, especially their black sons, about “the Code”.  This talk is as important if not more so than the sex talk.  It’s a talk the black community has passed down for generations, an evolving oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could easily cost black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life.  Now that I have a son, I have admittedly wished that the world head progressed to the point of not having to given this talk, all the while knowing that in reality I will.

Please read the excerpt or click through and read the whole article and think about what’s written.  I am not looking to ‘pull out the race card’ but I am wanting to give you, my readers, some insight into mindset that so shapes apart of the culture I came from.  

Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.

Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are….

I am 6-4 and more than 200 pounds, son. You probably will be too. Depending on how we dress, act and speak, people might make negative assumptions about us. That doesn’t mean they must be racist; it means they must be human.

Let me tell you a story, son, about a time when I forgot about the Black Male Code.

One morning I left our car at the shop for repairs. I was walking home through our quiet suburban neighborhood, in a cold drizzle, wearing an all-black sweatsuit with the hood pulled over my head.

From two blocks away, I saw your mother pull out of our driveway and roll towards me. When she stopped next to me and rolled down the window, her brown face was full of laughter.

“When I saw you from up the street,” your mother told me, “I said to myself, what is that guy doing in our neighborhood?”

HT: Yahoo News – Jesse Washington



About Jon Nelson

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody [Christ Jesus]!

Posted on March 28, 2012, in ...from Jon, Black History, Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I am with you in that I would hope to think that we had come far enough but I believe that racism is alive and well and increasing by the day. People know that it is wrong to be bigot of any kind so they convince themselves that they are not. There is not a day when I am in public that ever goes by where I make it without hearing some sort of bigotry. If there were students of a different race at the school where I teach I am sure that they wouldn’t get attacked and most students would probably be reasonably cordial if not friends with that student. But the fact remains that while their opinion may change about this one person the same thoughts will remain about everyone else.

    The real problem that we face know that was not evident 60 years ago is that people knew they were racist back then now people are in denial. All of this Trayvon coverage is racially charged but all of the Zimmerman supporters claim they are not racist and that race is not an issue. To me, that is a huge problem. It is harder to fix a problem when people are in denial about it.

  2. Woman's Clinic

    The expression ‘civil rights’ is commonly listened to but handful of people fully understand the complexity of its definition or its history.

  3. Before I went to FAMU at night time when walking by myself if I encountered a male on the walk I would cross the road and walk on the opposite side as him (whether it was a black male or a white male). AFTER taking classes at FAMU I NEVER crossed the road when I encountered a black male ; I would make sure I looked him in the eye and greet him with a smile (of course for all the white guys I crossed the road! LOL). The reason I started doing this is because of what my black male friends at FAMU said they went through on almost a daily basis. I don’t cross the road for anybody now..LOL!

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