The CBCNews Morning Brief arrived in my inbox this morning as it does every morning. The headline read, “How to talk to your kids about race, and why you should start now.” Why this and why now? Because on May 25, 2020 an African American man by the name of George Floyd died while being restrained by the very people who swore to serve and protect him. Derek Chauvin, a police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed face down on the pavement for being suspected of passing a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. For over eight minutes he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd, a father of three, gasped his last breath, face down on the hot dirty pavement.
Is that all his life was worth? A fake twenty dollar bill?
There’s a picture circulating social media that shows two children hugging. One is black and the other white with a caption that reads, “Racism is something you learn. Not something you are born with.” This reminded me of a conversation I had with a co-worker a few years back. She’s African and shared a story with me about a road trip she, along with her husband and two young children went on to the United States. A police offer pulled them over. While staring into his rearview mirror and watching the police officer approach their vehicle he instructed his wife to put her hands on the dash of the car. He grasped his steering wheel with both hands and sternly said to his family, “put your hands where they can be seen.” This highly educated man, a lawyer, the son of a minister feared the person approaching him, the person who swore to serve and protect him. My eyes filled up with tears. It was beyond my realm of comprehension.
Yesterday I watched a TEDTalk video by Marc Bamuthi Joseph titled, “You Have the Rite.” He shares a Black father’s tender and wrenching internal reflection on the pride and terror of seeing his son enter adulthood. He shares his own story of being arrested for parking illegally, sitting in the back seat of the police car thinking, “I”m going to die here. I’m angry and humiliated only until I’m scared and sad. I smell like the last gasp before my own death.” I thought of George Floyd, I thought of my co-worker…I am left breathless!
Do we start having these conversations with our children? Will these conversations teach them that color means different? If we can’t change the mindset of adults then maybe our only hope is to educate the children.
How many parents have books in their Childs library that show people with coloured skin? My children are grown now but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t but then again I raised my children to see everyone as equals. With or without books we must stop labelling human beings. We are not a color, a disability, a race, or sexual orientation. We are human beings who feel, and love, and cry, and hurt.
Thank you for listening old friend