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Race In DFW: Black Man's Burden

WARNING: Video contains a word some consider offensive

By Randy McIlwain and CJ Johnson
|  Tuesday, Jul 3, 2012  |  Updated 4:01 PM CDT
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For generations of African-American families, it's necessary to tell young black males that they may be viewed as suspicious.

Randy McIlwain, NBC 5 News

For generations of African-American families, it's necessary to tell young black males that they may be viewed as suspicious.

This year, the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin and debate over whether there was racial profiling in the case has amplified another conversation that's been quietly happening in African-American families for generations. 

Some call it "The Talk," a survival guide for black men in America.

Frisco Pastor Dono Pelham grew up near Sanford, Florida, and remembers it well.

"It was a constant battle between cultural expectations and norms and what my mom and dad said who we were," Pelham said.

A reinforcement of identity and worth, "The Talk" is designed to build self esteem often bludgeoned by life experiences of discrimination.

"I think at the end of the day, there's still a fear of African-American men," said Dr. Jason Shelton, professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Arlington. "My white students have hoods, my Asian students wear baggy pants and Nike and speak 'hip-hop slang' but when they do those things, there's less fear of them for whatever reason."

Jordan Gaffney of McKinney is almost 14-years-old. Jordan's parents are trying to help Jordan understand why his life experiences are changing.

"As soon as our voice gets a little deeper, as soon as we get a little taller, people start looking at us differently," said Chris Gaffney, Jordan's father.

"He used to go in the store and be the cute little chubby faced boy that everybody wanted to pinch his cheeks and kiss and hug," said Chere Gaffney, Jordan's mother. "Now they're grabbing their purse or they're walking the other direction. He's the same kid."

Collin County father Shane McCellan's hairstyle was once dreadlocks. "It definitely has more of an affect than it would a white guy going form shoulder length hair to a crew cut for them."

Now he's raising sons that want to wear braids in their hair. "The Talk" is coming.

"I don't know that I can say I dread the conversation," said McCellan. "I'm nervous. I want to make sure that I give it to them the right way. I want to make sure that I present a picture of the world that doesn't scare them to death but that does prepare them for what's lying ahead."

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