updated 7/14/2013 11:47:24 PM ET 2013-07-15T03:47:24

Host Melissa Harris-Perry and a Sunday panel full of fathers and mothers debated how parents--particularly African-American parents--should talk to their children about the "not guilty" verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, and its broader meaning.

Host Melissa Harris-Perry and her Sunday panel debated how parents–particularly African-American parents–should talk to their children about the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, and its broader meaning.

MSNBC contributorJoy Reid remarked how when she was pregnant with her daughter, she’d initially been hoping for a boy because she was “afraid for girl in this world,” but now is more afraid for her teenaged sons.

“Everywhere they go, everything that they’re wearing, their demeanor, the way they walk, are they looking at you funny–everything about them is supposed to be suspicious, and tbey’re tiny, skinny little kids who to me are babies,” Reid said. “All three of my kids I think of as babies, but the world doesn’t see them that way. As soon as they’re out of my custody…they’re basically walking suspects.”

Reid also remarked that while black families are accustomed to warning their children about being suspected by police, now the conversation will have to include civilians. However, the safety concerns that parents must address include the safety of those parents. “What does it mean to raise black children in a country where their parents don’t feel safe?” asked panelist Salamishah Tillet, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Tillet, who became a mother of a girl last year, added that it is difficult to instruct black children properly on how to behave and thrive when the parents themselves are “under siege and under surveillance constantly.”

UConn professor Jelani Cobb recalled taking his young daughter to rallies after the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo at the hands of the New York Police Department. Now that she is older, Cobb said that she is concerned about his safety simply because he’s a black man. “I’m actually recognizing that she not only worries about the young man who’s responsible for getting her home safely; she worries about her father. She worries about me as I’m out in the public as well.” He reassures his daughter that he’ll be safe, he said, but added that that is “another parental reassurance that no one should have to make.”

Harris-Perry recalled the “relief” she felt when she learned years ago that she’d be having a daughter–despite her concerns, as a sexual assault survivor, about raising a girl in a world plagued by sexual violence. “Last night, I thought, ‘I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away. Wish that they don’t exist, because it’s not safe,” she said.

Video: Harris-Perry: ‘I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away’

  1. Closed captioning of: Harris-Perry: ‘I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away’

    >> the trial of george zimmerman. as we look forward we will have to grapple with what we say to our children. don't forget, trayvon martin was not an adult, was the child of tracy martin and sybrina fulton. never forget the relief i felt -- i'm a sexual assault survivor -- never forget the relief i felt at my 20-week ultrasound revealed it was a girl. i live in a country that makes me wish my son away.

    >> i'm afraid for a girl. i'm thinking black girl , i'd rather have a buy. now i find as they are teenagers i'm more afraid for my boys than my daughter. because everywhere they go, everything they are wearing, their demeanor, the way they walk, are they looking at you funny. they are tiny, skin y, little kids that to me are babies. all three of my kids are babies. the world doesn't see them that way. as soon as they are out of my custody, out of their dad and my care they are waiting suspects. waiting to be arrested by police, followed around a store, made to feel uncomfortable in a store like they are not shopping. they are stealing. questioned about where they are, why are they there. you always have to teach them these horrible lessons in 2013 that you need to be really careful about who is around you. their dad has always had this conversation about black taxes. you can't get away with what white kids do. demeanor around police, never have we thought we had to have this case around demeanor around civilians.

    >> i'm a new dad. my child has had the privilege to be held by his auntie sybrina felton. i told him this morning that you have an auntie who is an angel, on this earth as an angel. i would love to give a heartfelt thank you to sybrina and tracy for allowing all of us to follow in your footsteps, in your courage and commitment to justice. you're remarkable human beings .

    >> i'm brand-new parent of a girl. ivities talking about her dad and the future. he said something profound. he probably wouldn't want me to be talking about this, he's an introvert. the world she's grog up in, he said, i don't feel safe. to me what does it mean to raise children in a country where their parents don't feel safe. we can't instruct them properly how to behave, live, succeed when we're under siege and we're under surveillance constantly. so i guess that's the other thing i want to say. this is the moment black people are the most free in the united states , given our long, long history of subjegation. if this is what it looks like, i don't know what else to say, what else to teach them. this the 50th anniversary of the bombing in birmingham, march in washington. these four little girls who died under similar situations, similar duress, i want to recognize them as well in this conversation.

    >> my daughter is grown. she's 21. she's not grown to me. but she's 21 years old. we go out places now. i think back to one of the earliest things we did that was political was taking her to rallies around amadou diallo , explaining how this can work, how we can wind up with a situation like it. we were living in the bronx, less than a mile from where this took place. now, she's 21, i talk to her about how a young man should treat her. when you go out with someone, it's his responsibility to make sure you get home safely. now i'm recognizing she worries not only about the young man who is responsible for getting her home safely, she worries about her father, she worries about me as i'm out in the public as well. so what i talk to her about is your father knows what he's doing. he'll be okay. it's another kind of parental reinsurance that no one should have to make. that's the reality we have here.

    >> it's interesting both of you have laid the finger on as we think about trayvon martin, the danger of the love we have for our sons and nephews. it's more than that it's when you love black men, even adult men, that sense of vulnerability and whether you love them in an intimate, romantic way or as your brothers, your friends, and i will also say this, as much as race has been a key part of this, i do not want to miss that in sanford, florida, last night the people who were rallying. those interracial groups of people. if there's anything else we can say, for all the danger still, i appreciate this, there's still this possibility, still this possibility of building coalitions that are broad. up next, a century-old question from one of the most important philosophers in african- american life . it's a question we're still asking today.


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