A Mother Reacts to George Floyd: Reacting with Action

The death of George Floyd has rocked me to the core. For the first few days, I saw the images popping up on my news feed, and they were so shocking to me that I could not take them in. It happened on a Monday. I could not bring myself to read about it until Friday. I couldn’t tell my ten-year-old about it until seven days after it happened. It has flooded me emotionally somehow, and the shock is still lingering. It has immobilized me. How was everyone else able to post about it so quickly? Or make posters? Or attend protests? Or create podcasts, articles, and blogs? I feel like I’m moving through quicksand with this one. I know why a little bit. It happened when I read that he cried out “mama” while he was dying. When I read that, my mind went to images of so many mothers of loss that I have known and loved since I became one myself. My mind went to a Bible story when Jesus was dying and he spoke from the cross and asked his friend to look after his mother. George Floyd called out for his mother, who preceded him in death. I wonder if he saw her, if she was coming for him. That haunts me.

And so we are left without him and for the first time in my life I understood the riots. When they burned down the police station, my thought was, “that makes sense.” I read somewhere that tantrums in children are a sign of trauma. This trauma – this enormous tantrum – this righteous rage – it’s coming from somewhere. These are not out-of-control toddlers; these are traumatized humans who are demanding to be heard.

Well, they have my attention. I’m realizing that the bubble I’m living in is too small and too white. I grew up in the public school system, but I was in the gifted program and honors classes all the way through, and do you know what that meant?  The only non-white students I interacted with were Asian or Middle Eastern, and even they were very few. My church was very white. I can’t remember any non-whites there. I went to a state school for college. Looking back, why wasn’t that experience more diverse? I didn’t have any non-white friends. When I moved to the midwest for grad school, guess what – my world was still completely white. Today as a Kirkwood mom, my non-white friends are few and far between. I’m not proud of this. I met with a group of moms for wine night last night, and we were all – you guessed it – white. 

closeup of the raised fist of a man with the text I cant breathe on his wrist, as it is used as slogan in the George Floyd protests in response to police brutality and racism in the United States

I know that I am not alone. That is why I’m taking the time to write this. There are many moms out there just like me who stay in their comfort zone. What concerns me is that if more mothers do not cross the racial divide and help our children to do the same, we lose the opportunity to be part of the important work of racial healing that must happen. The world is always getting worse, and it is always getting better. This happens mysteriously at the same time. I want to be part of making this better. 

So, where do I start? I listened to a great podcast today that was so practical. 

You can find it here: Why You Need to Talk About Race With Your Kids (Podcast): https://bit.ly/36NbeQi

For a faith based children’s lesson about loving people who don’t look like you check out this elementary lesson and this preschool lesson.  

What I learned was that there are little steps that I can take right now.  Just last week in Kirkwood, an 8-year-old boy organized a march that hundreds of children showed up for. I used this opportunity to talk to my children about what was happening in the world.  My six year old said, “I feel sad.” Then after a moment she said, “We can work this out.” When discussing police and people who do not look like us, my eight year old said, “Anyone can be dangerous.” My 10 year old and six year old decided to attend the Kirkwood Kids march because, as organizer Nolan said, “Kids can help make things better.”  He wanted to hold the sign and walk at the front with the children. I was so proud of the compassion in his heart. We marched to show support for the healing that we hope is coming for our nation and to grow their empathy and compassion for others. They also learned what a wonderful community we are part of.  That gives me hope. 

I have some ideas for other steps, too. I want to get a hold of some library books to read with my children.  I will look for books, toys, and movies that are more diverse and learn to use language to talk about how beautiful and good all different kinds of people are. I will encourage all kinds of friendships. I have three white boys and one white girl. One day, they will be adults. I want them to be examples of progress in this area. This wasn’t really on my radar as a parenting goal before this happened, but it certainly is now. I want to thank George for that, and I also want to thank his mom. As he was calling out for his mother, he got the attention of this one. 

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