Two Fathers, Two Sons, Two Very Different Conversations About Race

Two Philly families, one white, one black, feel worlds apart on this issue.

December 12, 2014, 2:10 PM

— -- Two families, living only miles apart in the Philadelphia area, both are middle class, with married, college-educated parents, with dedicated fathers and each with a 10-year-old boy.

But the big difference between the two families is their race -- and how they talk about racial issues at home.

The Jones family is African American. The Kaye family is white. The conversations each father has with his son about race are worlds apart.

In the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and the Eric Garner case, Aidan Kaye has been asking his father, children’s book author Daniel Kaye, a lot of questions -- questions he has struggled to answer.

“There’s a part of me that looks at him and sees him as this innocent little boy, and I hate the thought of having to have conversations like this,” Daniel Kaye said. “But there are people who are living this, a conversation is not a hard thing to have when other people are struggling and really are afraid for themselves.”

The Kayes live in Abington, a predominantly white Philadelphia suburb. Daniel said he has always told Aidan he has nothing to fear from police, but given recent events, now he wants to teach him that for many people, that is not the case.

“You can’t say ‘all police are this’ or ‘all police are that,’” Daniel told his son. “They’re our friends and they work really hard to protect our community and we support them, but you have to be honest that there are problems.”

For Solomon Jones, a popular local radio host, the race talk is a running dialogue with his son, Solomon III. He’s been talking to him about it since he started preschool in Philadelphia, a racially diverse private school that contrasts with its predominately African-American neighborhood.

“When I look at my son I see him as this A-B student, as this boy with a strong moral compass, he’s soft spoken, he wants to be a scientist,” Jones said. “I just don’t want my son to have to go through some of the things that I've gone through and I've seen other people go through.”

Young Solomon is quiet and studious, but his father worries that in the heat of the moment, it won’t matter. “We always talk to you about, like if you get stopped by police, even if you feel like they stopped you for no reason,” Jones said to his son.

“Like harassing?” young Solomon asked.

“Like harassing, right,” Jones continued. “That's what Eric Garner said. He said, ‘Every time you see me, you harass me,’ and he was angry, and they wanted to arrest him and he didn't want to be arrested because he didn't feel like he had done anything wrong, and they killed him. I don’t want to see that happen to anyone that I love. That's why you've got to be polite, get out of the situation so you can come home.”

According to a recent Pew study, nearly two-thirds of blacks polled said they believed race played a major factor in the decisions not to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, while only one in six whites call race a major factor.

To further understand the divide, "Nightline" wanted to hear the conversations parents have with their children about race behind closed doors, in the safety of their own homes.

Watch the full "Nightline" piece HERE to find out what happens.

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