#70 Family Matters Blowin in the Wind
In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, May 31, 2020
So many calls from parents and a few from kids themselves, the past few days. Is there a way to explain to a child why George Floyd died? Do we want to describe how he died? Do we want to protect our children, black or white, purple or striped, from seeing what is going on across our cities currently, with a mixture of protest and outrage sprinkled with violence and mayhem? Do we take them to candlelight vigils? To rallies? Back to churches or synagogues which we’ve avoided out of concern for our health and the health of our communities? Have we turned off our TVs thinking ‘we’ll watch this later, when the kids have gone to sleep’ only to realize, none of us really goes to sleep these days, offspring included, three months into this mandatory nesting period of time, and truly, do we keep this kind of incident a secret from our children for some reason?
Because, by the way, even after we took precautions thinking our children would not ‘have to be exposed to this’ they heard, as did we, when the public alert beeeeeeping sound let us ALL know we are now not just in ‘shelter in place from COVID-19’ but now are actually under curfew from 8pm until 5:00 am to not leave our homes whatsoever. After that, we all had to explain something to our littles, and hopefully, we tailored what we said based on the age and stage of our children. And hopefully, whatever we said, we included information and truth.
What have you told your children? What dialogue are you engaged in that will hopefully continue not just for days, but for months to come? What is our role as parents regarding teaching children about racism, about disparity, about discrimination, about safety in society, and ultimately, about our ability or inability to keep our children safe? How much comfort do we offer and how much reality do we share with them and what is the mid-point? How is the discussion different based on our own skin tone, personal experience, affiliations and backgrounds? What kinds of privilege do we have with which we need to be transparent when we engage in these talks with our kids?
I have a profound sense of sadness and déjà vu feeling from when I stayed up around the clock during the Los Angeles 1992 riots, which were terrifying and not surprising. I had a newborn who required feeding by eye dropper, around the clock, and that was the beginning of television coverage around the clock. It was horrifying, but not a shock, to see people put into action their collective sense of outrage.
There have obviously been many subsequent incidences of racism, both micro and macro, across our country, which are also terrifying, but not surprising. It is almost 30 years after Rodney King and the LA Riots, and it seems we have not made much progress regarding basic civil rights nor change regarding inequities across people. Is it irrational for there to be country wide outcries after we witnessed a police officer keep his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and chest, despite Mr. Floyd being handcuffed and lying compliant on the street, clearly stating, “I can’t breathe.”
"I can't breathe," Mr. Floyd said repeatedly, pleading for his mother and begging "please, please, please". For eight minutes and 46 seconds, police officer Mr. Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck, the prosecutors' report says. About six minutes into that period, Mr. Floyd became non-responsive. In videos of the incident, this was when Mr. Floyd fell silent, as bystanders urged the officers to check his pulse. At 20:27, Mr. Chauvin removed his knee from Mr. Floyd's neck. Motionless, Mr. Floyd was rolled on to a gurney and taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in an ambulance. He was pronounced dead around an hour later.
As a white woman of privilege, I cannot speak to anyone’s experience of racism. I can, however, be outraged to have watched a murder take place in broad daylight, on the streets of Minneapolis, by a police officer. I can commit to work toward change and I can stand beside those who are wronged and demeaned. So, given that we want to work to create a better world in which all of us can live, what can we do? The first step, of course, for white individuals, is to become clear about the basics of white privilege, what it is and how it works. The second step is to explore ways in which we can work against the racism of which white privilege is a cornerstone.
Have you seen this meme, going around social media? I am copying and re-posting it and apologies for only including a tiny part of it:
I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go jogging (#AhmaudArbery)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
And to quote another white person of privilege, one who was incredibly helpful during times of earlier protests in raising awareness and pointing out hypocrisy:
How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky? How many lives must one man have, before he can hear people cry? And how many deaths will it takes til he knows, that too many people have died? The answer my friend, is blowin in the wind. The answer is blowin in the wind. 1963
Bob Dylan, I wish this were true, and that by now, the wind would have educated us all. Until that time, however, we only have one another, to hold safe and raise up and support.
So, when our children ask us what is going on, let’s tell them. Tell them ‘people judge others based on the color of their skin, which is not ok.’ Tell them, ‘in our family we expect you to be fair and kind and to get to know people who are different than us and to share in their lives and celebrations and invite them to share in our lives and celebrations.’ If you are raising children of privilege, point it out, because otherwise, it’s ‘just normal’ – it is, as has been noted by academicians, like asking fish to know they are in water or expecting birds to know they can fly – it’s their existence and they know of no other existence. As humans, however, and not birds or fish, we have the capacity to observe, reflect, and integrate in information to change the lens through which we see the world. In raising all of our children, remind them to not sit idly by when they see acts of cruelty or acts of misuse of power.
We desperately are in need of the next generation to make right where we have failed at. And they need to get a move on it – given their newly acquired skills in technology and their newly acquired sense of resiliency and forbearance, I have optimism that in partnership, they will lead the way for us all. No individual should be publicly lynched, attacked, shot, murdered.
Not on our watch. And not on the watch of our children.
Be safe. Be strong. Speak out. And empower your children to speak out. Speak truth to power, without violence, but with a loud loud voice. Share your grief. Share your mourning. Share your outrage. Share your fear. Raise us up with your children’s spiritual leadership and let us walk together and light a candle while we listen to hear if there is an answer blowin in the wind.