How to raise a black son in America | Clint Smith


Growing up, I didn’t always understand why my parents made me
follow the rules that they did. Like, why did I really
have to mow the lawn? Why was homework really that important? Why couldn’t I put jelly beans
in my oatmeal? My childhood was abound
with questions like this. Normal things about being a kid
and realizing that sometimes, it was best to listen to my parents
even when I didn’t exactly understand why. And it’s not that they didn’t want
me to think critically. Their parenting always sought
to reconcile the tension between having my siblings and I
understand the realities of the world, while ensuring that we never accepted
the status quo as inevitable. I came to realize that this,
in and of itself, was a very purposeful form of education. One of my favorite educators,
Brazilian author and scholar Paulo Freire, speaks quite explicitly
about the need for education to be used as a tool for critical
awakening and shared humanity. In his most famous book,
“Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” he states, “No one can be
authentically human while he prevents others from being so.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this
lately, this idea of humanity, and specifically, who in this world
is afforded the privilege of being perceived as fully human. Over the course of
the past several months, the world has watched
as unarmed black men, and women, have had their lives taken
at the hands of police and vigilante. These events and all that
has transpired after them have brought me back to my own childhood and the decisions that my parents made
about raising a black boy in America that growing up, I didn’t always
understand in the way that I do now. I think of how hard it must have been,
how profoundly unfair it must have felt for them to feel like they had
to strip away parts of my childhood just so that I could come home at night. For example, I think of how one night, when I was around 12 years old, on an
overnight field trip to another city, my friends and I bought Super Soakers and turned the hotel parking lot
into our own water-filled battle zone. We hid behind cars, running through the darkness that
lay between the streetlights, boundless laughter ubiquitous
across the pavement. But within 10 minutes, my father came outside,
grabbed me by my forearm and led me into our room
with an unfamiliar grip. Before I could say anything, tell him how foolish he had
made me look in front of my friends, he derided me for being so naive. Looked me in the eye,
fear consuming his face, and said, “Son, I’m sorry, but you can’t act the same
as your white friends. You can’t pretend to shoot guns. You can’t run around in the dark. You can’t hide behind anything
other than your own teeth.” I know now how scared he must have been, how easily I could have fallen
into the empty of the night, that some man would mistake this water for a good reason to wash
all of this away. These are the sorts of messages I’ve been
inundated with my entire life: Always keep your hands where they
can see them, don’t move too quickly, take off your hood when the sun goes down. My parents raised me and my siblings
in an armor of advice, an ocean of alarm bells so someone
wouldn’t steal the breath from our lungs, so that they wouldn’t make
a memory of this skin. So that we could be kids,
not casket or concrete. And it’s not because they thought it
would make us better than anyone else it’s simply because they wanted
to keep us alive. All of my black friends were raised
with the same message, the talk, given to us
when we became old enough to be mistaken for a nail ready
to be hammered to the ground, when people made our melanin
synonymous with something to be feared. But what does it do to a child to grow up knowing that you
cannot simply be a child? That the whims of adolescence
are too dangerous for your breath, that you cannot simply be curious, that you are not afforded the luxury
of making a mistake, that someone’s implicit bias might be the reason you don’t
wake up in the morning. But this cannot be what defines us. Because we have parents
who raised us to understand that our bodies weren’t meant
for the backside of a bullet, but for flying kites and jumping rope,
and laughing until our stomachs burst. We had teachers who taught us
how to raise our hands in class, and not just to signal surrender, and that the only thing we should give up is the idea that we
aren’t worthy of this world. So when we say that black lives matter,
it’s not because others don’t, it’s simply because we must affirm that we
are worthy of existing without fear, when so many things tell us we are not. I want to live in a world where my son will not be presumed guilty
the moment he is born, where a toy in his hand isn’t mistaken
for anything other than a toy. And I refuse to accept that we can’t
build this world into something new, some place where a child’s name doesn’t have to be written
on a t-shirt, or a tombstone, where the value of someone’s life isn’t determined by anything other
than the fact that they had lungs, a place where every single
one of us can breathe. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How to raise a black son in America | Clint Smith

  1. the black community is the reason there is racism in america

  2. I see that some of you put a valid argument but yet he has some of this right and he is also talking about his experiences and not yours so get off this guy and for you grown ups that I see even the Black guys  I know you guys have experienced some of this cruelty and white folk you guys are not very experienced with this stuff so yeah I'm twelve and i can tell you this stuff because i don't go and hate on people who at least try to make this world a better place and I do know that white people get killed but they have done something and yes some black folk have done something know I am not saying this is just to blacks and whites this is for gays lesbians Hispanics and many others I say this because there is a time and a place for everything so I'll tell you this and i want all of you guys are saying this is BS can you go up in a pro speech room and say what you've learned in your life time it isn't that easy it's no show and tell so idk maybe you can but I can tell you that this was very important to me because I'm still young and I will go and tell my children about this message and how old the people here are you guys should have a wide open mind I have put my verdict direct and center in the table you guys can learn from me. T.M.M P.S. I'm twelve and for all you kids please tell me what you got from this guy and you adults have a wide open mind it's not so bad .

  3. GREAT. WHITE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO ARE FULLY HUMAN AND THAT SOMETHING IS 'WRONG' WITH EVERYONE ELSE….HOW WRONG THEY ARE SMH

  4. It's always someone who is not a person of color that knows what people of color experience in America…. Lol! How would you know? You want us to raise our children to "not see color", but we ARE of color, and others blatantly make it known to us. Some people get hurt and even killed because of it. So, please, stop taking offense to people of color fighting to cease racism. We should all strive for a future where we recognize our differences but embrace it; not one where we "don't see it". I refuse to give up my culture so that others can satisfy their ignorance. As a Latina, I stand by Black Lives Matters because we share the same struggle. Peace & Love.

  5. about 100 blacks were killed on average per year between 2007-2012 by white police officers. During the same span about 7440 blacks where killed by other blacks on average per year. Instead of preaching about fear of police officers, maybe we should encourage each other to move out of crime ridden urban areas.

  6. I see my self as Human. Rife with mistakes, blessed with artistry and knowledge and wisdom. And battle-tested with experience. But the greatest question I must ask, is what defines Human to those who aren't like me? What defines Human to a system that once held my fellows in chains? I love the idea of being Human. But am I truly Human?

  7. A very wise man who learned from his own very wise and loving father about the realities of life as a man of color.  He's an inspiration.

  8. The Black community has a culture problem.  Their is a guilt of association due to the lack of condemnation of the violence, the drug dealing and the over all crimes that black people commit not only on themselves but on the other races as well.This lack of speaking out must mean that it is an endorsement of these actions.   MLK stated that  for his people to be judged by the content of character, not by the color of their skin.  Go on YouTube and world star hip hop and you will see just how lacking the character of black community truly is and why it is still in the state that it is in.

  9. I can feel the pain behind his words 
    is that the land of opportunity they talking about ??!!

  10. I'm proud to say that he was my 10 grade english teacher, and yet he has gotten so far since last year (': prpud of you man.

  11. Powerful message. Real. Sad. And wrong… There are two or more Americas. Save Our Sons.

  12. I wonder if others watch this & think this is "black reality." It's his reality. It may be others' reality – many others. I was raised in the 70s & 80s. My parents let me do whatever my peers were doing. They never warned me or poisoned me. I didn't fear cops. Maybe if I grew up in a poor, inner city area during the crack epidemic of the 80s, I'd feel differently, but not every black person did so. Not every black person grows up this way. However, in light of recent events, I can understand a black parent taking pause. Actually, all parents might be wise to warn of cops because, although disproportionately black, there have been many more not-so "news worthy" cases of cops going ape on whites. …but this guy didn't grow up then. Why does the "lowest" common denominator of black Americans always think they speak for the entire group? It's almost like white folks in Appalachia trying to speak for all white people.

  13. wah wah wah wahhhhhhhhh. all the black community does is fucking whine and cry all the time. so many excuses for why black people are such a huge failure of a people. try actually raising your fucking children instead of leaving 70%+ of black children fatherless. no one feels bad for blacks anymore. of course black people are going to blame everyone else except themselves because the hardest thing for black people to do is to assume responsibility for their actions. grow up black people.

  14. Maybe the problem is not black people but guns. Here in Europe guns are banned and we don't have to think that a kid is a threat for our lives.

  15. "Listen to the police officer", ""Don't talk back to a police officer", "Always keep your hands where they can see them" & "Don't move around too quickly" are the same words my father told me & I'm a white American. That police pedestrian etiquette is what his father taught him. Those aren't special instructions for one particular race. The bias in his argument is that his father taught him those values. He had a father figure to teach him these values. In 1968, black mothers raising children out of wedlock was 20%. Today it is near 80%. Raising a child is not easy, but even harder if you're a single parent. I know for certain that I wouldn't be the same person I am today if my dad or a father figure was not in my life. Single parents vs. 2 parents means that you have 1 less potential income earner to support your child, 1 less potential parent to spend time parenting your child, and 1 less person to share parenting ideas. Ask yourself, were these kids raised by 2 parents?

  16. Does he write spoken word? Cuz you can hear it in his talk; very poetic.

  17. Maybe if they used some of their fucking tax money to better the education system and not invest in their military, kids wouldn't later turn out to be racist fucks in the force department.

  18. Na moral: fantástico! Muito obrigado Deus, por tudo. Parabéns, Clint Smith, por ter percebido tudo o que os seus pais fizeram por você e por ter um senso apurado e acreditar em um mundo melhor, o qual eu também acredito, sei que é possível e que virá: graças a Deus. Vamos nos esforçasse fazermos por onde, nos cuidando e cuidando de todos os demais seres, sempre que sentirmos, em nossos corações, que devemos fazê-lo.

  19. I see a lot of stupid comments Like– just obey the officer -put your hands up, –don't make any sudden moves,- White people get killed by police too,– or the one I really like I didn't get that talk from my parents.   To those misguided and didn't see the point Mr. Smith made will never see it.  You being white or even being black and was raised by white people will see the injustices or biases that exist in the criminal justice system as well as the economic machine that whites enjoy and black have to deal with.   You will never understand that Black lives mater is not about only black lives but all lives matter and that system is rigged against us.    The term used most of the time is "I feared for my life" or "He(she) would not comply with orders."   A young boy in his adolescent years would never understand a police officer telling him to put down that water pistol.  Just as a child would not know if she puts her hand on that hot stove she would get burned.  A long time ago  white people would say "Oh no those police don't act like that.. those blacks are lying.  Officer friendly is a nice warm  apple pie guy.   Now that videos show a different story and they now come up with looking for little details to make it right to killed an unarmed black child like Tamir Rice because he had a bb gun.   Even in that state where it is legal for a white man to carry a real firearm in the open, but they shot a 11 year old black child in 2.1 seconds.  To the black people who think the system is fair and just,  tell that to Tamir Rises family or Freddy Grey's family.  A young man carrying a knife that was legal to have in that state but still unjustly taken into custody and killed.  THANKS   MR.SMITH FOR THE POETIC POINTS AND THOUGHTS YOU HAVE BROUGHT OUT IN THE OPEN

  20. LOL boo hoo! This reminds me of the Todd talks parody. Chances of a Black person getting killed by a White person is like a shark attack. We all know Black people killed other Black people daily and that is the real problem. They just displace it onto White people because they have been lied too for far too long to think they are angels and cannot do wrong. The problem is Black culture certainly not a "system" that benefits some groups even more than White people.

  21. No one can authentically be human while he is preventing others from being so!

  22. You are outstanding
    l don't do what you do just quotes: No today dreams just yesterday dreams which are tomorrow dreams..

  23. brilliant idea. lets teach children to be afraid of the police and white people. what could go wrong?
    althought i must admit that the police really are a bunch of shady mofos and should be interacted with cautiously regardless of race or country.
    how about teaching your kids not to glorify thugs, not disrespect women, and not assume that every problems is causes by other people. that way more kids will grow with fathers, less kids will grow in poor homes, and less kids will become thugs ending up in prison or getting shot.

  24. This title bothers me because he is making it seem like blacks have it worse. If they have it worse, it is a culture problem which makes them poor/ uneducated/ whatever it may be. Same if it was a white, Spanish Asian child. There is a reason why Asians/Europeans, basically any race that values education and showing class is so successful. Just saying.

  25. please take you and your "oppressed people" back to your mother land were you wont have black colleges tv station all the black organizations black celebrated holidays afirmitive action welfare food stamps and all the systemic hand outs evil white people give you then your people can thrive in your original enviorment produce your own culture and show the world when not held back by anything or one how it should have been and be

  26. I love how there are either conspiracists or smart people down here lol

  27. Most liberals are very ignorant and racist, but this is a black man who clearly has slightly higher than average IQ. Only people who are not stupid should speak or be given attention.

  28. loved this TED Talk. It makes me sad and angry though that this is reality for many people

  29. Seems like all need special training to protect themselves from the white man!!

  30. You had a lawn and a father, and went to Harvard. You're only as "Black" as others want you to be, don't be deceived by the soft racism of the low expectations of people who only see you as a victim of your skin color. Nothing against you man, but you're not making things any better perpetuating this victomhood mentality of generations past, it fact it's making things regress

  31. Help your community not represent anything that might be percieved as bad such as your community being responsible for more than 50% of murders

  32. 22 black men were struck by lightning. 16 unarmed black men were killed by police.

  33. The narrative around police shootings don't encapsulate the reality. The problem isn't police responding in racist fashion. The problem is the murder rate in the black community.

    It's perfectly logical for police to respond to the disproportionate level of violence in the black community.

  34. Great speaker…However, the message was hijacked from a Parenting Book…What Mr. Smith preaches is common sense, for any race. Not black, white, brown or whatever other self identifying groups are out there now.  His parents are were teaching him respect- for HIMSELF and OTHERS! The community and society. Not because he was black, but because his father was a great man.Everybody should take a step back and take race labeling off your decision making. According to Mr. Smith, I should now encourage my white son to prowl around a hotel parking lot with a fake gun wearing a hoodie after dark- because he is white? I should encourage him to reach into his pockets with a defiant attitude when approached by a police officer? Because he is white? Raising our kids with built in prejudices against themselves and using the race label- "Do this because you are black" is worse than a white person saying it to him/her.  Mr. Smith, I hope you change for the future of your children. Encourage them to be great citizens of the community they live in-not label your parenting skills as a "black thing."

  35. I can't raise my son here. The europeans are extremely hateful of black boys and black men.

  36. Cultural attitudes make a difference. Hip-hop music immortalizes drug dealers and murderers. On a 2013 album Jay-Z, one of the country’s richest and most popular rappers, referenced one Wayne Perry in a song. Perry was a hit man in the 1980s for one of Washington, D.C.’s most notorious drug lords. He pleaded guilty in 1994 to five murders, and received five consecutive life sentences. (book: "Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed")

  37. Fatherless families especially hurt black boys. This is a post-segregation phenomenon. In Philadelphia circa 1880, 75 percent of black families and 73 percent of white families were comprised of two parents and children. In Philadelphia circa 2007, married-couple families accounted for only 34 percent of African American family households.

    Nationwide, data from every census taken between 1890 and 1940 show the black marriage rate exceeding the white rate. Yet some folks still want to blame the “legacy” of slavery and racism for the breakdown of the black family and subsequent social pathologies.

  38. USA critics other country (especially İran) but they dont look themselves. they dont care about black people. They kill them. But they still say something about other countries. firstly usa has to bring democracy own country…

  39. Great speech by Clint!! Love his speech!However, this is NOT just a matter of black kids, its all about minority kids here in the US.
    Asian boy was gunned dead about 20 years ago,He was an exchange student from Japan.
    He was going to a party during Halloween, and when he visited his friends house, however, he rang the next door bell by mistake, and this white guy came out of the house and fired his gun and shot this kid.And shooter was INNOCENT, and case was closed!
    Its a very scarey facts that we all should focus on this matter, because there are so many white people believe just themselves or their own people, and nobody else.

  40. Powerful words, heart wrenching (only for those who refuse to use the cognitive power of their brain). In what area of life one does not have to follow the rules. Come on, even in the ghetto, there are rules to observe that will, somehow, guarantee a life free of beatings. Further, why when it is well known "how dangerous a place is, people keep on walking through it. If black people know "how awful living in this country" is (as if there was a place on earth that it is not) they keep on conceiving? It is said that when a mistake is done more than once, it loses its meaning as such and turns into a decision. Isn't bringing kids into this "horrible" country a mental abuse on those young ones? Isn't even among them that, when something goes wrong, the weakest one is the one who gets blamed? And, if the outside world is so" horrible", shouldn't then the black neighborhoods be the model of safe environment, cleanness and security?
    Life is full of rules, when they are refused to follow, consequences come. We all want integration but at the very end of the day, even black people tend to steer away from a group of their same, when walking down the street, to safeguard their safety.

  41. The Devil is a liar, and we must rebuke the spirit of fear. With Christ we are more than conquerors, Christ has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power in his name. Their is no name under heaven, that holds the power of God but Jesus. We must not fear this world, nor conform to it's lies. The Spirit of God is free, is protected, it's preserved. Amen instead of saying black lives matters, we need to Jesus Christ matters. If Jesus gave his life, so that we can be saved. We must do the same for our Jesus, this life has to much evil foolishness. We are not the only ones dying, nor destroyed it's just the power of the media and we do not see everything else going on all around the world that everybody is dying from sin and rejection of Christ. Everybody is walking around dead, like the apocalypse, and must be born again.

  42. I am a 26 y/o white male, (which I am not ashamed of). I have been meeting up with black friends to seek their perspective on life and to better understand their daily existence. I am only a young man, but I have already seen enough injustice in daily life to know that racism is not dead, and that our society in fact does offer certain privileges to white people. I do see color, and it's beautiful. In fact, to say, "I don't see color" is ignorant because it is insinuating there maybe something "wrong" with that. We are all different. I am ashamed to say I used to be very dismissive of this issue, and in fact failed to take any action for my black brothers and sisters. I still have a long way to go. I am trying to learn from sociology books as well, getting the perspectives of people different from myself (police officers, entrepreneurs, etc), so I can better understand how to take positive action. I believe a big change will come in the next 30 years, a change for the better of our society as a whole. Love is the cure.

  43. Gotta love how racists are only held accountable if they are white. Fucking ignorant pseudo science, these people are the next Nazis and will attempt and promote a genocide if ever they are the majority. One can only hope raising a black son would involve tolerance love content of character and the judging of actions not skin colour. Teaching hate and mistrust is the new social justice and it strips humanity from the individual in order to punish a wrong not done to them.

  44. Two years later we have another unarmed black father gun down; shot at 20 times as he was getting down to surrender.

  45. The ignorance and insensitivity here is EXACTLY why we are STILL having these conversations. Why can't some people just face the fact that we have an issue that can only begin to be solved when people are willing to accept responsibility for damage that has been done to African American people. I am 32 years old. I own my own company, I also work as a consultant Engineer on major Transportation projects. I was raised in the "ghetto". In a neighborhood known as the "badlands" in a city that had some of the highest murder rates! I have one degree in Engineering and one in Computer Programming. I am black. I'm a female and I have no children. My father was a single parent, my mother was a drug addict that I did not meet until adulthood. As a child I was given the same talk countless times! Because as black people this is what we have to teach our young in order for them to survive. When I was a young kid I did not understand any of it either but as the years went on I understood EXACTLY why they did what they did. Its easy to not want to take ownership of the part that you have played in wrong doing. Nobody wants to be the bad guy but the truth of the matter is until we stop being stubborn, stop down playing others pain, stop ignoring truth! This will always be an issue.
    Yours Truly,
    An "educated" black woman

  46. You people kill at an alarming rate!! You are the ones that kill yourselves. When and if you realize this you can be free!! You blame others for the fact that your race is the most violent the world is ever known!! Blacks of the ones killing other blacks, PERIOD!!

  47. Racism is not a major problem in the US. Dont fall for the trap. People like this man spread poison and fear.

  48. Blind fear is unhealthy.
    Police shoot more Whites than Blacks every year.
    And if parents would teach their kids to obey the laws and don't resist arrest and don't attack the police then nobody would have this blind fear.
    All lives matter or no lives matter everyone is treated equally.

  49. I appreciate his perspective for his experience. But as someone who will be a parent to a black boy shortly, I refuse to instill unnecessary fear and feelings of low self-worth into my child's mindset. And I think parents need to think critically about what they say to their children. Even if there is strong injustices out there (which I disagree it on a whole, as someone who lives in the inner city, worked in schools, etc. it's mainly about hard work, parenting, community, quality of schools, etc. – Not necessarily racism) – it is the parent's job to deal with it. Not dim the light of their child. Because just telling a child that other people will dim his/her light IS DIMMING THE CHILD'S LIGHT. It creates a victim mentality. For example, the examples this speaker used of his parent instilling this fear in him essentially proves my point. The speaker didn't mention ONE example of actual prejudice he faced – rather he just referenced examples of "what he could face". That's not the same – The fear was created by his father. In 2019, I refuse to see how my black boy will not be able to dream big, live without fear, and achieve all his dreams. I question the overall point of this message – Is he saying black boys should be raised afraid or be timid due to potential prejudices out there?

  50. I've seen this during one of my university classes and it really changed my view on racism ever since. I have never realized how serious it was

  51. I don’t fully agree with what you’re saying, and that’s fine. But I believe that your fathers type of thinking restricts you from being who you really are, it makes you ignorant even though it’s trying to protect you physically. We can’t change as of people if we keep looking at white people what is outsiders because that’s what black people do a lot. Your father should have never stopped you from playing with your friends, maybe keep an eye on you but not stopped you from being a kid.

  52. My parents never allowed water guns and other toy guns in the house. They never told me why, but i realized the truth later. I think this is why despite his protests, my dad sort of turned a blind eye to guns in video games. He realized it was the only safe outlet for me to enjoy the same “toy gun violence” that all boys yearn for.

  53. Bullshit. Everyone needs to follow rules no matter the color. Poor me victim mentality is a plantation trick to keep us mentally inferior . Opportunity is there for everyone regardless of color. I grew up a poor black child n the hoods of dc never had a bad run in with police cause I acted with responsibility . I am a very successful black man in this America this idiot teaches will oppress you. This dudes a race baiting controlled opposition fear munger spreading works for the beast liar.

  54. I have 4 brothers, and I have 2 sons. I was reared just like any other kid. I rear my boys the same way. This Ted TALK is B.S.

  55. I think you mean black lives (only) matter. You were raised by racists to be a racist, my friend. Obama’s push for police body cams has shown that over and over and over and over and over an over and over and over again.

  56. Im from July 2019

    Im from VN and this is one of the best Ted videos i've ever watched

  57. over 4 years later. I still love this talk. This has got to be my favorite.

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