Our daughters, ages 6 and 8, are nonplussed by some of their parents’ dinner table conversations these days.
“Why would anyone be mean to someone because they are black?” asked our youngest Lila Jane the other night.
After all, they live in what the Los Angeles Times has called “the most diverse place in America,” a city where they and their parents interact with every gradation of humanity every single day.
Tracie and I are trying our best to raise them as antiracists. But at their age, it’s hard for them to grasp the terrible legacy of racism in the U.S.
How do you explain to an eight- and six-year-old that a black man from our city, not much younger than their father, was brutally killed by a police officer simply because they suspected him of possessing a counterfeit $20 bill? How do you explain that three other police officers stood idly by as the man begged for his life and passersby pleaded with them to relent?
The other night at dinner they asked us point blank what had happened to George Floyd and why.
I make a living by speaking and writing. My friends often tease me that I always have something to say about everything under the sun.
But my voice failed me in that moment. I know the answer but I could not summon the words to articulate the explanation in a way that they would understand.
It will take years for them to wrap their minds around the disgraceful, ugly history of racism in our country.
“Some white people don’t like black people,” I told them.
“Why, daddy?” they asked.
“Because some white people think they are better than them,” I said.
They love their black classmates, they protested, clearly confused by what I had just told them.
“Some white people are mean to black people because they think they are better than them,” I said again.
“Why would someone be mean to my friend L [her classmate] at school?” asked Lila Jane.
“I don’t know the answer,” I said.
“But, daddy, you know everything!” said Georgia.
“I wish I did, sweetheart,” I said running my hands through Lila Jane’s long lockdown hair. “I wish I did.”
Tracie and I are trying the best we can to teach them how to be antiracists. But right now, the best way we can do that — we believe — is by example.
I’m still searching for an answer for our girls. Someday I hope to find it. In the meantime, we’re trying to be “better ancestors.”
Thanks for being here and please have a look at the links below.
“It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” — Angela Davis
- If you are white, or benefit from white privilege, read this piece on white fragility in The New Yorker and consider deeply how this shows up for you. Then take 2-3 actions today from this list of 75 things white people can do for racial justice.
- The Minnesota Freedom Fund has been flooded with donations and is now encouraging people to donate their money to other Black or BIPOC led organizations. There’s a good list here of bail funds to help support protestors who need bail money.
- Donate to George Floyd’s family’s GoFundMe.
- For Canadians, some great organizations to donate to are: The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Freedom School, Black Lives Matter, The Groundswell Fund.
- Explore this comprehensive list of ways to be an anti-racist and choose a few of the resources to engage with today.
- If you are a white woman, read this guide by Tatiana Mac. If you are a white man, read this one.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — MLK Jr.