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“Son, Black People are Like Superman. But Cops Can Be the Kryptonite:” Communication About Police Brutality in the Black Family

ABSTRACT Even with heightened scrutiny and augmented visibility of cases, the Black community continues to experience police brutality more than their racial counterparts. Previous research has highlighted the prominence of the Black family in the process of racial socialization and identity construction, and other research has reinforced the family as an influential factor in one’s perception of police. However, still, there is a significant absence of communication-centered research that analyzes the issue of police brutality, especially within the Black family. This is true even though police brutality has a well-documented and long-lasting impact on the Black family. Therefore, guided by core tenets of Critical Race Theory, this qualitative study utilized interviews to analyze how interviewees from Black families communicate about police brutality. The following themes emerged from the analysis: (1) Critical Cases: family members remember Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland, (2) Critical Incidents: communication about first-hand accounts and familial stories, and (3) Critical Conversations: stages of “the Talk.” Findings from this study can be used to understand better how Black families navigate police brutality, an issue known to increase stress, trauma, and rates of race-based mortality. This study’s findings can be applied to social work, family therapy, and mental health fields.