A whole week has sailed since talk about Usher Raymond’s sexual health status debuted in mainstream media headlines and social media timelines alike. Much like his 2004 Confessions album—this news did numbers. The public is now aware of Raymond’s alleged herpes diagnosis and accusations that he both never disclosed his status and, with reckless abandon, infected a female partner with the virus. The public court is judging Raymond and, if the accuser is being truthful, rightfully so: those actions affect public health and violate sexual trust. There are memos about this.

Another side to this story is hella problematic. Court documents state the Grammy award-winning singer “knowingly and consciously exposed [his victim] to the virus and did not give her the opportunity to protect herself.” However, according to the newly infected woman, she once noticed a “greenish discharge” oozing from Usher’s penis and opted to sex “it” anyway, after he allegedly claimed it was nothing to be concerned about.

And therein lies the problem.

While it was incumbent for the artist to be forthcoming with information about his sexual health status and/or to wrap his smoking gun, this young lady had every opportunity to protect herself as well. In fact, she has the governance and the responsibility to protect her own body more so than he—especially when seeing green. Green pus is a red flag. Full stop. Green pus screams infection—and not necessarily the viral kind. Green pus hollers run—do not walk—in the opposite direction of green pus. Perhaps she was smoking that good green. Perhaps she was awestruck by a different kind of green. Perhaps she did not get the memo. Nonetheless, if any of this story is true, both Usher and his female cohort are adults who made poor decisions and are now facing grave consequences.

All this brings the question of how we, as parents, can equip our children with the knowledge of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and the discernment to protect themselves, and others, from experiencing sexual napalm.

Because Black children are at higher risk for STD, we should be leaning into the conversation. Click To Tweet

Perhaps the memo should be imparted to our young children as early as they become sexually aware and not once they become sexually active. KidsHealth from Nemours, an education site that focuses children’s health, suggests sooner than later, but maintains that anytime is the right time, that “The Talk” is never too early or too late. They also provide practical advice and child-friendly ways on how to start the discussion:

  • Be informed. STDs can be a frightening and confusing subject, so it may help to read up on STD transmission and prevention. You don’t want to add any misinformation, and being familiar with the topic will make you feel more comfortable. If kids ask for information that you’re not sure about, find out the answer from a reliable source and get back to them. Planned Parenthood helps parents talk with their children more often and more in-depth about the things that matter, and the organization has resources, guidance, videos, and apps designed to make starting and continuing these conversations easier and richer, with a tips video, educational videos in English and Spanish for talking about specifics like body changes, pregnancy and reproduction, sex and sexuality and personal safety, plus  tip sheets and guidance for talking with children of all ages about a variety of topics.
  • Ask what your kids already know about STDs and what else they’d like to learn. Remember, though: Kids often already know more than you realize, although much of that information could be incorrect. Parents need to provide accurate information so their kids can make the right decisions and protect themselves.
  • Ask what your kids think about sexual scenarios on TV and in movies and use those fictional situations as a way to talk about safe sex and risky behavior.
  • Encourage your kids to share any fears, questions, or concerns.
    Help kids feel in charge of the talk by getting their opinions on what you discuss. If you let their questions lead the way, you’ll have a much more productive talk than if you stick to an agenda or give a lecture.
  • Explain that the only sure way to remain STD-free is to not have sex or intimate contact with anyone outside of a committed, monogamous relationship, such as marriage. However, those who are having sex should use condoms to protect against STDs every time (or a dental dam when a girl is receiving oral sex). This is true even when using another method of birth control. Most condoms are made of latex, but both male and female condoms made of polyurethane are available for people with a latex allergy.

It must be noted that Black children are at higher risk for STD than other races. Thus, we should be leaning into the conversation. In 2015, a study conducted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Black adolescents were affected by chlamydia at almost three times the rate for Hispanic teens and five times the rate for whites. Numbers were even higher for syphilis and gonorrhea.

Talking about sex, particularly STD, with children is an anxious act, but a revolutionary one. Click To Tweet

Like other aspects of Black life, Black children are at a disadvantage when it comes to their sexual health. Without the proper tools to empower themselves, and protect others, they will continue to be. Without proper armament, they will make poor decisions and face grave consequences. Talking about sex, in particular STD, with children is an anxious act, but a revolutionary one all the same. Arm them. Give them the memo so they never end up in the green.

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Ida Harris

Ida Harris is a journalist and cultural critic covering a range of topics that intersect with Blackness, including art, activism, pop culture, parenting and womanhood. Ida is especially known for her critical writing on sexual assault against Black women and girls. Her work is featured in ELLE , DAME , Blavity, Teen Vogue , and USA Today.

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