There are many pivotal moments in parenting, including important conversations that help teach our children about life. Unfortunately, for Black and brown parents, one of those conversations inevitably includes “the talk” about racism, police violence and white supremacy. It is hard to watch the innocence slowly leave your child, when we have to tell them how they will be judged daily just because of the amount of melanin in their skin.

“Black and brown children don’t get the grace and space to mess up. If they do, their lives could be taken in an instant,” Wanda Dorlean writes. RUCHUDA BOONPLIEN/

“The talk” is just one of many ways we treat Black and brown children as adults. Seemingly overnight they go from cute babies to threats. I am continuously reminded that despite how hard I try, I can do little to keep them safe when they are apart from me. Black and brown children don’t get the grace and space to mess up. If they do, their lives could be taken in an instant. We have “the talk” because we know it’s not a matter of if our children will encounter racism, but when. The talk serves as a kind of armor so that they are not caught unaware or surprised. What does it say about us as a nation when parents have to prepare 5- and 6-year-olds to encounter hate because of the color of their skin?

I wish I could say I struggle to name specific examples of how my children are treated as threats in their own community, but unfortunately, there are many. They have been told by other children they can’t play because they are Black. My son has been called the N-word by people in passing vehicles. Just last week, a resident of NSY Portsmouth Homes here in Kittery called the police on my 10-year-old daughter because of a merry-go-round accident. Think about it for a moment. Calling the police on a child. A 10-year-old child. Not a child in crisis. Not a child with a weapon. Simply a child who accidentally knocked someone off playground equipment. Does she deserve to be traumatized for this? My daughter ran home crying hysterically because an adult decided this was the best course of action because her kid fell off the merry-go-round. What could have been handled through calm conversation instead was escalated to the point where police were involved.

It is not news how a police interaction can affect a young person of color. Trayvon Martin, Ma’Khia Bryant, Elijah McClain, Michael Brown – the list goes on. The responsibility is on all of us to become dedicated to navigating conflict in ways that minimize harm, enrich community bonds and acknowledge the systemic oppression that Black, Indigenous and people of color communities face. We need to stop injecting law enforcement into places where it doesn’t belong. We have seen countless stories of Black people being policed just for simply existing. Things like holding a barbecue without a permit, children selling water to raise money, bird watching and now, in Kittery, for a merry-go-round incident. Kittery is not exempt from bigotry, hatred and racism.

My family has had many moments of joy with amazing people in Kittery. When my husband was sick with COVID, we were overwhelmed with the support that we received. Fortunately, he’s healthy again, but other risks remain. Please remember, BIPOC families in this town have an experience that is vastly different from white families’. We are counting on white allies who are dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression and reducing harm against BIPOC communities. That starts with thinking twice before calling the police.

I could easily become consumed by fears, sadness, anger and grief. My response could be to tell my children to never play at the nearby playgrounds.. Instead, I let myself envision a future where my children are safe and able to just live as children. I dream of a public park where my kids can play and not be told they don’t belong. I long for a world where adults choose to talk to each other rather than call the police. I long for a world that doesn’t need to witness Black lives being violently stripped away to feel a little empathy. I long for a world where I can just take a breath and know my skin color isn’t perceived as a threat.

Comments are not available on this story.