I remember the talk. (The Talk? It certainly carried the psychological weight of a proper noun.) I guess it was never actually one Talk — it was more that I heard a series of smaller talks from my parents, both of whom are Caribbean immigrants. They’d couch it in the language of difference, and it now occurs to me that they were trying to instill in me a sense — a niggling unease, maybe, or a vague nausea — of when situations might not be safe for me, as a young black male growing up in small town East Texas.
“Don’t stay out too late. Nothing good happens after midnight,” my mom would say. “You have to protect yourself! When the police show up, who do you think is going to get in trouble — you or those little white girls you’re hanging around with?”
I’d always argue with her when she said things like that. Not because she was wrong; because she was right, and her rightness hurt me somewhere deep and inarticulate. American society has indelibly marked my body as exotic, as dangerous, as uncontrollably lustful, as rage-filled, as a symbol of every single societal ill. Black. Nigger.