Millions worldwide witnessed the slow, brutal—and what has now been deemed murder—of George Floyd. Captured on video, you see former officer Derek Chauvin apply constant pressure from his knee to Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes. The effect George Floyd’s death has had on communities of color, in particular, sent the entire nation into an uproar, with ongoing protests around the US and the world ever since.
People of all ethnicities, backgrounds and belief systems have united across the world to protest the unjust killing and painful death of another human being, removing his race from the scenario. To have any sense of humanity makes watching the video an incredibly heart-wrenching experience. Floyd gasped for air and struggled to tell the officer: “I can’t breathe” many times. Chauvin kept his knee on his neck, even after Floyd was no longer breathing.
On Tuesday, April 20, former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted across the board on second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
While I know the verdict is a step in the right direction, as a mom of three Black sons and three Black daughters, it doesn’t feel like enough. When your child asks: “Mommy, why did that cop kill George Floyd?” a whole new level of sorrow hits you.
Amid a global pandemic, we witnessed an uptick in the killings of people of color by the police. These events added to the difficulties of 2020, to say the least. CBS News reported that 164 men and women were killed by police officers between January 1 and August 31 of 2020 alone. The disproportionate rate of killings that occur during what should often be routine police interactions with people of color is mind-blowing.
I constantly live with fear for my older children that have moved out and function independently. One wrong move or interaction with an impatient or jumpy police officer could end their life in the blink of an eye. As a mother that wants to protect her children at all costs, that’s a heavy burden to bear.
Racial disparity in this country has existed for centuries. Many of us speak with our sons and daughters while they’re young about potential future interactions with the police. I know that I certainly did, and especially within the last year, I’ve had to have some intense conversations with my younger children, who are 10 and 8.
I can’t begin to explain what kind of malice you must have in your heart to kneel on someone’s neck while they are gasping for breath and crying out for their mother. However, I have explained to them that, painfully, racial injustice remains prevalent in our country. We can’t ignore the ugly truths. Hate and fear do exist, and it all begins at what you are taught at home.
How to handle these conversations with kids
Whether or not you feel directly impacted by George Floyd’s murder, this is a necessary conversation to have as a family. Our children are the future of the world, and they are influenced by what they see around them. As they ask critical questions about protests and why people are dying, it’s essential to educate our children. Teaching children about the reality of racial, educational and financial inequalities creates awareness and empathy for others. Hate stems from fear, and fear comes from misunderstanding, pre-judgments and even privilege.
When I talk to my children about those that have needlessly lost their lives at the hands of the police, like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and, most recently, Daunte Wright, it breaks my heart a little more each time. I recognize that the only way to beat racism is to persevere in helping to advocate for actionable, positive reform. It’s my job to continue teaching my children temperance and acceptance of others, regardless of race, religion, or gender specificity.
While Derek Chauvin’s conviction is a win for those seeking a form of justice, there is much more to follow to win as a unified nation and create a new cycle of events. My heart grieves for the families of those who have lost their loved ones due to police violence. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, ‘I have a dream that my little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’