I had been avoiding putting the news on lately because I knew what my kids would see.
They would see riots. They would see hate. They would literally see a grown man dying an unjustifiable death at the knee of someone that they believe is supposed to be protecting people, not hurting them.
What don’t they see? They don’t see how a difference in the colour of our skin can be used against us. They don’t see racism, because they don’t know what racism is. They haven’t been victims of racism or hate. Not yet anyway.
I had been avoiding watching the news on TV, because I had no idea how to explain to my kids what was happening around the world right now.
People aren’t born racist. They learn their values and attitudes towards life and other people, from the people around them.
It doesn’t matter what the colour of our skin is, racism affects everyone. It isn’t limited to privileged white people being racist towards Black people. It affects all of us.
Sharing a thoughtful meme and updating our social media status to condemn racism and show our support is a start. But if we really want change to happen, that’s not nearly enough.
I’m not suggesting you go join in on a riot or that you even have to leave your home during this pandemic in order to make a difference.
But we can start at home, by having a conversation with our kids.
It is up to us to teach our kids about what is happening and why it is wrong. So that they don’t repeat or contribute to the same actions now or in the future.
So that they know right from wrong when someone else tries to influence their beliefs. Because if you aren’t speaking to your kids, someone else will.
I didn’t think I could find the right words to share just the right amount of information that would be age appropriate for my 7 year old, if I just brought it up in a random conversation.
So I wrote down what I wanted him to hear, and read it to him instead. He listened thoughtfully, and responded with great heart.
This won’t and shouldn’t be the last conversation we have about this. And it is OK to say you don’t have all the answers.
The important thing is to start the conversation and to start now.
I’ve shared my script below. If you’ve been struggling to find the right words to explain the unexplainable, I hope these words help.
Racism and the death of George Floyd- A letter to my 7 year old
As you know, I’ve been avoiding putting the news on lately. Something bad happened last week and they’ve been talking about it a lot on the news.
I knew that if you watched it, you’d have questions. And I wasn’t sure if I’d know how to answer them in a way that you would understand. I needed a bit of time to figure out how to explain it to you.
So here we go.
There was a man called George Floyd who lived in Minneapolis in America. He was an African American man. That means the colour of his skin was Black.
He was arrested and handcuffed by a white police officer. That police officer killed him before taking him to jail.
Many people believe that he didn’t kill George Floyd because he did something bad or because he was afraid that George Floyd was going to hurt him. They believe that he killed him because of the colour of his skin.
That he killed him because he was Black. That he was racist.
This has made a lot of people sad, upset and angry all around the world. It should not have happened. It is not OK that this happened.
Sadly, it’s not the first time that a white police officer has killed a Black person.
So what is racism?
Racism is when someone believes that they are better than someone else, because of the colour of their skin.
This is NOT true and we call that person a racist.
In this situation it was a white person against a Black person, but people of all skin colours can be racist to people who don’t look the same as them.
It is up to us, to choose not to be racist. It is our decision to treat everyone, no matter the colour of their skin, with respect and kindness.
Are all police officers racist?
Being a police officer gave him the opportunity and power to kill George Floyd the way that he did, but being a police officer does not make someone a racist person.
While there are some police officers who are racist, we mustn’t think of all police officers as racist. Most of them chose to serve and protect the people around them no matter what the colour of their skin is. And that is exactly what they do.
They are all individual, unique people with their own thoughts, beliefs and actions.
Think of it like there being a few bad kids in your class at school. If those kids did all the bad stuff, would it be fair for the entire class to be thought of as bad? Would it be fair for the whole class to be punished every single time those kids did bad things?
Was George Floyd a bad guy?
So you’re probably wondering if George Floyd was a bad guy? Is that why the police officer did what he did?
The answer is, it’s not up to us to decide if he was a good guy or a bad guy. We didn’t know him. What we know is that when he was arrested and killed, it was because he used a fake $20 bill to buy something at a convenience store.
But even if he did do something really bad, the point is, he still shouldn’t have been treated the way he was.
People all around the world are getting very angry and upset because another African American person was killed by a police officer. So they are protesting.
What is protesting?
Protesting is when a group of people gather, hold up signs and talk about something that is important to them. People usually protest when something is wrong and they are upset about it.
They want to get some attention and be listened to. They usually do this in a big group so that they can be heard and it is usually quite peaceful. But sometimes, those protests can turn into riots.
What is rioting?
Rioting is when a group of people get together and they are so angry that they can’t control their feelings and they start fighting with other people. They start destroying things and start fires.
Rioting is NOT OK and is NOT the same as protesting. It is violent and dangerous, but some people feel that this is the only way they will get listened to. That this is the only way to get the world’s attention. To see what has happened, and admit that it is wrong.
The people who are protesting and rioting, want what we call justice for what has happened.
What is justice?
Justice is when a person who does something bad, is punished for what they did.
People want to see the police officer punished for what he did to George Floyd. They want other people, including police officers, to know that this is wrong and that they can’t do the same thing without being punished for it.
Everytime you get hurt by someone, you want justice too. You just don’t know that it’s called that.
Here’s an example. If your brother keeps whacking you on the head with a toy, you come to us for help to make him stop. We talk to him, we take the toy away, we give him a time out and then we talk to him again to make sure he understood why he was punished and not to do it again.
You want justice for what happened to you. You want us to see that you got hurt. You want us to agree with you that what happened was wrong, and to punish him the right amount so that he feels bad and knows it’s not ok to do that.
But how would you feel if we ignored you, when you got hurt? You would keep reminding us that you’ve been hurt, that you want us to talk to him, to take the toy away and to put him in a time out.
You would start to get angry and even more upset, because now not only were you hurt with the toy, but your feelings and needs were also being ignored by us.
Well instead of being hurt with toys, many people are dying for no reason other than the colour of their skin. It keeps happening, especially to African American people and they feel ignored when they ask for help.
People all over the world want justice for what happened. They want to see the right people being punished, so that EVERYONE knows it’s NOT OK to keep doing this.
I want you to remember that there is NEVER a situation where it is OK to be racist.