Editor’s note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Christy Oglesby, quality assurance manager for CNN/U.S. in Atlanta, wrote about the lessons about racism she’s felt compelled to pass on to her 12-year old son, Drew. Against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin shooting, she says she feels justified in doing so. The hundreds of comments that poured in are evidence that the post affected many people quite deeply, and we felt it would be enlightening to share some of the most fascinating remarks with you.
The big questions seemed to be: How should parents talk about race with their children? And how much should we worry about it?
“I am moved to tears by this mother’s struggle,” said a reader named Tiffany who said she is “humbled” by Oglesby’s efforts. Bullying and self-esteem are the kinds of things she says she worries about, not being shot while running through a neighborhood.
“I know many people who argue that racism in this country is a fairy tale in the minds of black people who want pity and welfare … but still, their children are dying having committed no crime at all. What kind of fairy tale is that?”
Some readers were concerned about the message being sent.
griff: “It seems to me though that by teaching her son that it’s not a good idea to run through a neighborhood, that’s only perpetuating the problem by conditioning people or reenforcing the notion that a black kid running through a neighborhood is only up to no good. It conditions people to think that ‘black kids are taught to not run through neighborhoods,’ so if it’s happening, it must be because something is wrong.”
Our readers talked about their own biases and questions about racism.
GW Bear: “Looking at some of the responses here, from mostly white responders tells me that most of us white folks just do not get this. I very much doubt there is a single black parent out there who cannot relate to your article in some way or other. I also suspect most whites never truly can, as it just looks different from our point of view. After Martin’s death I cannot help but feel that the Person of Color perspective is valid far, far more often than white people will admit.”
atl78: “I tend to think that we all have it mixed up. Non-whites have experienced racism and they are determined to prove it so we sometimes see racism where it isn’t. On the other hand, some whites are reluctant to see racism because they do not view themselves as racists and do not want to assume any personal responsibility. But, cases like this prove that it exists and it is a real problem in our country. It’s time that we stop taking everything personally and look at what really IS vs. what we want to see.”
While responding to another reader, a commenter called Juli shared this anecdote.
“I was waiting in a long line at the post office. The woman behind me casually started making conversation. We got on the subject of kids and she asked me how many children I had and I said, ‘five.’ She quietly leaned over to me and said, ‘I always like to see white families having lots of children.’ I couldn’t find the words to respond because I am white and my sons are black.”
But some were concerned that the story was promoting racial differences and prejudices.
Casey: “I was raised not to judge people on their skin color. That’s racism. It’s wrong. I grew up in a small, conservative, ultra-religious town, and my parents still managed to teach me to judge people upon their actions. And yet here’s this woman, enforcing over and over to her son that everyone will be racist against him. How about taking some responsibility for making everyone respect your race and culture more. If you’re so obsessed with the idea that it’s inferior, maybe the problem isn’t with everyone else, maybe the problem is with you.”
The following person was fed up after reading the story.
Kym: “I’m so disgusted after reading this article. This racism is so depressing, all of it. I hate stereotypes and prejudices towards all races, cultures, etc. Looks like this country will never be rid of racism, stereotypes, etc.”
And then there was the following reader, who very candidly said racism is difficult to eliminate because there are so many stereotypes around.
i’m asian. caucasian.: “What happened to this child was terrible. As a white man i have always tried not to hold unpleasant views of b1ack males. But sometimes it’s hard. The ‘gangsta’ culture and its violence. The number of jailed black males. Being intimidated when i went to school with them. Having the brothers of the b1ack girls I dated threaten me (which i later found out is suppose to mean they like me?). When I like someone, I take them out for a beer. I was not born into this world with hate in my heart. I try so hard to keep it out. I just really feel a lot of black men are out there giving (themselves) a bad name. I think America is trying very hard to get over its terrible past, but sometimes those demons challenge us. We all have to be big enough to fight them and say enough is enough.”
This reader shared a personal story.
farmerjeani: “When the mother of my white granddaughters’ black fiancee told them it wasn’t safe for her to drive to Florida with him, we all thought she was being overly cautious. Surely in this time frame, with a newly elected Barack Obama, this kind of racism no longer exists. Turns out the white side of the family is overly naive. They have been subjected to more than one instance of racism and after what happened to Trayvon, I can hardly wait until the end of the year when he will have graduated from college and they will take their two beautiful sons and leave Florida for good! I only wish I could be sure there was somewhere else in this country they can be completely safe.”
And others wondered if the writer was overreacting.
TheZeitgeist: “Tragedy of the kid getting killed is a tragedy all the same, but this lady is over-reacting about her boy. Statistically, race-motivated killings of black people by white people are exceptionally rare. The author’s boy has an order-of-magnitude higher probability of being murdered by a black person for color of his shoes than a white person for color of his skin. Important to keep things in perspective as we engage in another bout of navel-gazing here. And to put that in perspective, getting killed driving cars poorly will kill more teens than all the teens murdered for any reason this year combined. The author should keep that one in perspective weighing statistical risks to her testosterone-fueled kid.”
ya no: “You’re most likely correct with your assertions –- statistically. Unfortunately, when your kid is at risk, injured or killed, statistics seem to lose their relevance.”
What’s your take? Have you had to advise your child, or have you experienced something similar? Share your opinion in the comments below, or sound off on video via CNN iReport.
Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.