We are commiserating after wannabe cop George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
For many of us, our commiseration has meant having the "talk" with our sons. Also called the "black male code," the "talk" is the lecture about appropriate behavior and dress in public spaces, especially in the presence of police officers. In much of America, the conventional wisdom is that young black males are a threat, and we hope that in most situations, appropriateness and humility will give us a small measure of protection.
While we need to have this "talk" with our sons, there is another talk we need to have. I'm naming it the victim talk.
Victimhood, the concept of being oppressed and greatly limited, runs through most of our discussions about our place in America. And we are victims, as defined by Webster's New World College Dictionary: "someone or something killed, destroyed, injured, or otherwise harmed by, or suffering from some act, condition, or circumstance."
Actually, our basic problem is not being the victim. It is allowing victimhood to become our way of life and circumscribing our most precious possession: a wholesome self-concept.
Listen, I am among millions of blacks who readily acknowledge being a victim of America's enduring racism. But even as we acknowledge being a victim, we refuse to live as the victim.
We have been denied jobs because we are black. We have been objects of redlining and have been rejected for bank loans and auto insurance. We have been refused admission to prestigious colleges and universities. We have received rude service in businesses. We have had security guards follow us in stores.
We have suffered all the humiliations heaped upon our race. What makes us different is that we refuse to succumb to the degradation. We refuse to let it control and otherwise ruin our lives.
Teach this to your sons.
Despite the obstacles of racism, we as African-Americans still have a responsibility to provide decent shelter, a safe environment and nutritious food for our children.
We have a duty to instill in our children the love of learning and the understanding that attending school and graduating are of utmost importance.
We have an obligation to invest in social capital: We need to keep our houses and apartments clean and maintained and our yards free of trash and debris. Cleanliness and orderliness dignify life.
Have this talk with your sons.
Racism should not be used to rationalize black-on-black crime. Such crime is unjustifiable, and we should condemn it, always. It occurs in our communities — down the street, next door, in our homes. Our pulpits should resound with anti-black-on-black-crime sermons.
Research consistently shows that the absence of the two-parent family has crippled us. Yet too many of our girls continue to have babies out of wedlock with males who do not work, who are school dropouts. What kind of futures do these kids have? We need to teach our boys that they have a responsibility to help end the cycle of dependence and misery.
We are alone, on our own whether we know it or not. As such, we must become fiercely self-reliant both as individuals and as a group.
We must become independent in spite of racism. We must become college educated or learn a trade that enables us to support our families. We must become informed of important issues and trends. Read newspapers and magazines and books. Travel as often as possible. Surround ourselves with smart, ethical people. Register to vote — and vote.
Obviously, this letter is a blueprint. Add your own wisdom. But talk with your children, especially with your boys. Tell them to never let being the victim diminish them. Tell them to make being the victim a reason to be creative, to act positively for themselves and for others.
Have this talk with your sons: the victim talk.