Sage advice for children

In light of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy, it is appropriate we all do a little thinking about how these situations happen.

In spite of the fact that nobody other than Mr. Zimmerman knows what really occured that sad night, we can all look back on our own experiences and maybe find some sage advice we can give our kids to help them avoid a similar tragedy.

In the March 29 Chronicle, an article by Jesse Washington of the Associated Press laments that he had to tell his 12-year-old son about the “Black Man Code.”

Essentially: 1) Always pay close attention to your surroundings, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood. 2) If you dress in certain ways, people might be suspicious of you. 3) Never argue with the police or someone with a badge or gun – do not flee or fight – but protect your dignity.

Mr. Washington then goes on to talk about Mr. Dotson, chairman of the 100 Black Men of America, and the instruction he received as a youth and how it evolved over time. His grandparents and parents told him to respond with respect and not be combative.

Today, Mr. Dotson tells his children they should always be respectful, but should not tolerate being disrespected.

Yeah, what a great idea! Tell your children to “protect their dignity” and to never “tolerate being disrespected.” Maybe that explains the level of violence our black community is experiencing. Might be time for some of us to reconsider the advice we are giving our children.

Let me share the non-race-specific lessons my dad taught me. Essentially: 1) Always pay close attention to your surroundings. 2) People judge you by how you dress – make me proud of you. 3) Never argue or show disrespect for your elders. To “protect my dignity” I learned that “sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me.” I also learned that avoidance was the best way to not be “disrespected.” This lesson also suggested that “the best thing to have in a fight is a two-block head start.” This advice is something that I think most of us older people were exposed to in one way or the other, and it sure worked for me.

I was also taught to not be confrontational, and I would not normally make adverse comments about what Mr. Washington or Mr. Dotson told their children. However, since they seem to feel it’s appropriate to publicly express their thoughts, I felt a response was necessary to help others perhaps find a better message for their children.

Ed Shippey

Aiken, S.C.

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