I saw the headlines pop up on my screen after the racist act in Central Park and then again after the murder of another black man, this time in Minneapolis. Sadly, I clicked away. I had an enormously busy day and didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with what seemed to be a part of my daily reality. I would deal with it later, as I knew our family would talk about these incidents.

“Later” came before I was ready. While I was still at work, my teenage daughter FaceTimed me. Sobbing, she shared that in her efforts to follow current events, she viewed the most recent video of a police officer’s barbaric and inhumane detainment of a black man. By herself, she witnessed George Floyd’s murder. As her sobs grew louder, she asked, “Why do they hate us?” Replaying in my head was the same question asked by my young son years earlier.

Walking home, I wrestled with how I would soothe her pain, listen to her concerns and offer insights that would compel her to never hate. As I collected myself, I began to feel my own pain and anguish turn to anger and frustration. Do white families think about the impact of these racist acts on our lives? Do they realize the toll on us and our families when we are left to witness and experience such brutality? Do they know or even care that from the time my son was born, I worried about the moment people would stop thinking of him as sweet and lovable and start perceiving him as a threat to society? Could they imagine that when my husband leaves the house, I worry that my goodbye to him, “I love you” but “be safe,” could be my last – every single time?

I am a mother and a wife. I am also an educator. I work with incredible young people who I hope will make a difference in the world. And yet, I am forced to confront the actions of Amy Cooper, the white woman in Central Park who called the police on Christian Cooper, a black man who simply asked her to leash her dog. She is highly educated and likely had many exceptional educational experiences that were intended to challenge her, provide her opportunities to interact with different people and confront her ignorance and biases. And yet, in a split calculated second, she played on white people’s fear of blackness and the expectation of police bias against black people and acted out her racism by calling them. She knew her actions could lead to the death of another black man.

What does it take for Amy and other white Americans to become conscious of the racism they exhibit that poses a mortal threat toward another human being? How many times did someone justify or ignore their biased and racist acts? How did people respond to such occurrences? What makes some people afraid to call them out? When such behaviors go unchecked, will white people believe they are entitled to these attitudes and behaviors and fail to understand that they could eventually lead to the murder of a human being in daylight, in front of an audience begging for compassion? Is it easier to be a bystander because it provides a level of comfort in not seeing the collective harm caused by the daily operations of racism in this country and their own implication in that system?

I don’t have the answers. I do know that we need to dig deeper and work harder to bring forth an equitable society where every person is treated humanely and justly. Otherwise, our discourse and espoused commitment to inclusion is mere rhetoric. Right now, I believe that Amy Cooper’s mindset and action are part of what led to the Minneapolis police officer committing unjustifiable murder. How do I reconcile that and not become paralyzed? The bottom line is that I don’t want my beautiful and intelligent children to endure psychological harm because they continue to witness racist acts of violence. They deserve better and more.

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