As I read the article my colleague wrote, “Should We Talk to Our Kids About Ahmaud Arbery?,” I couldn’t help but think the majority of those reading his article would actually have a choice. As a black woman, married to a black man, raising black children, I don’t have that choice.
The questions for me to ponder are:
- How do we talk to our kids about another black person being killed?
- When do we talk to our kids about another black person being killed?
- How do we talk to our kids about another black person being killed, AGAIN?
When injustice knocks on your door
Tragically, injustice came knocking on my door three years ago when my younger brother, KJ, died while in the custody of a police agency. He was a son, brother, and father. He loved basketball and hosted and coached drill camps for youth, and he had so many opportunities ahead of him.
Yet I have had to read details, watch videos, and answer questions related to how my brother died. When injustice lessens the life of your loved one to another hashtag to be posted and forgotten, it is traumatic.
When an unnecessary and unjust death occurs in your family, you can’t forget. You can’t choose to look the other way. You can’t not talk about it.
In fact, I had a hard conversation with my husband last night as he shared details with me about the senseless killing of yet another black man, George Floyd.
Floyd was being subdued by a Minnesota policeman who had his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck. George Floyd repeatedly stated he couldn’t breathe. But no one came to his aid. He died of the injuries sustained while detained by this officer.
Sadly, these stories are all too common. We only hear about the ones caught on video or the ones the media decides to cover.
How do I talk about George Floyd?
So what does a born-again, Christ-following, black person do when another black brother, sister, or child dies unjustly?
The pressure to speak out on injustice is real. And necessary.
When my white brothers and sisters of the Christian faith choose not to speak against injustice, it’s assumed their silence means they agree with or are OK with the incident (or the outcome). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
As Christ followers who happen to have color in our pigmentation, we know there is evil in the world. And we expect unbelievers to act within that realm of wickedness and the sin of racism. However, we grapple with the silence from our white brothers and sisters in Christ. To us, this silence screams our lives don’t matter.
The insensitivity some whites communicate when they justify the killing of a black person based on the guilt of their past or the presumed innocence of the person or persons who committed the killing (i.e. “If he would have followed his commands…,” “If he was not in that neighborhood…” or “Well, the officer feared for his life.”) hurts deeply.
Here are three things I must do personally before I can talk to my kids about another George Floyd, another black man killed. Maybe these will help you as you prepare to talk with your kids.
1. Process and feel my emotions.
I allow myself to grieve, to feel sad, to hurt for the lives lost and for their families who are suffering. I even acknowledge my own anger, fears, and concern for the current state of the world. But I have to be careful not to become overwhelmed emotionally.
There is a level of numbness and avoidance black people must enter to be able to function daily. If I grieved every black and brown body that was killed unjustly or unnecessarily, I would not be able to work, care for my family, or maintain relationships. As I process George Floyd’s death, I meditate on Psalm 31:9, “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.”
I weep in response to the hashtags I see in my newsfeed. George Floyd’s life (and each of those lives) mattered.
2. Pray through my emotions and thoughts.
I need to be honest before the Lord and pray about what I am feeling and thinking. Read Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
I cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me.
And I need to cast my fears and frustrations upon the Lord and leave them at the foot of the Cross. I need to ask the Lord for strength and to help my unbelief that wrestles with trusting that God will not be mocked and that He will perform vengeance on behalf of those who have been oppressed.
3. Point my heart and head toward Heaven.
I need to focus my mind on “things that are above” (Colossians 3:2). I can’t allow the pain of racism and the images of black people getting killed to penetrate my soul. So I personally do not watch the videos of how people die. My soul can’t handle it.
I look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. After I do these things, I repeat steps 1-3 with my children.
Even as the hashtags are endless and there seems to be no stop to the killings, I continue to redirect my children’s hearts and minds to the God who sees, who cares, and who is making all things new (see Isaiah 43:19). I want to make sure they don’t allow malice for white people or police, in general, to infiltrate their hearts. I don’t want them to learn to hate others because others hate us.
And I also want to be used by the Lord to protect their souls. They don’t need to watch the George Floyd video. Or any others! These incidences are traumatic. They don’t need to hear every detail. They don’t need to read every article.
Just as we all are tempering how we stay informed about COVID-19, we must do the same as it relates to the heated topic of racism, excessive force, and police brutality.
Should I talk to my kids about another black person being killed?
Yes, but not at the cost of traumatizing them over and over. I choose how and when we talk through these matters. And prayerfully, the Holy Spirit will use these conversations to strengthen our faith in the God of justice and truth.
Even as a watching world witnesses the protests over George Floyd’s death happening in several states, I am saddened. Many people are affected by the destructive actions of a few. As the saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” My auntie would say, “Right don’t wrong nobody.” Which is why the riots in response to Floyd’s death cause an added ache for the entire city.
I have to cast my cares on the Lord—I don’t need to cast away my hope that the Lord will one day right the wrongs, straighten the crooked places, and lift up our bowed heads.
Until then, I will hold my husband and children tightly, praying that we keep having the hard conversations. And that those that don’t look like me will do the same.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.