The Reisinger family, from left, Cole, Natalie, Justin and Shane. Natalie has spoken frankly with her son about how Americans treat each other differently based on skin color. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Natalie Reisinger is a 33-year-old social worker from Portland who has had to revisit familiar conversations with her two sons, 13-year-old Justin and 8-year-old Cole.

We speak about race in general in our home, all the time. My 13-year-old is in it, he’s begging to go to the protests all the time. In my heart, I’m nervous and scared. I want to protect him as much as possible, but there is nothing I can hide from him.

For me, when I saw the George Floyd thing, my first thought was, well, we see it all the time. Of course I’m outraged, but I have to take a break and sort of guard myself from it. I just felt like I couldn’t watch it again. With anything, there is an appropriate way to teach and have them understand. You have to break it down.

With my younger son, it’s asking things like, “Have you heard of racial justice and discrimination?” and seeing where he’s at. Then talking about how for black Americans, how they are treated is based on the color of their skin.

It’s really hard. It’s a hard conversation to have. Books help me a lot. We just read a book (Friday) morning, called “Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester. I think he is processing a lot. We do live in Maine, so this isn’t something that’s talked about a lot or taught in school. I don’t want him to feel uncomfortable, so I’m probably a little more sensitive with him.

With my older son, I think he has seen this been going on for a long time, although this time 100 percent feels different. Some of my peers who have never said anything about race and who would never touch the subject, are now talking about it and using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. It feels like we have more allies in this. It feels much greater than any other recent movements.

Education is really big. What I still see is such a lack of education for even understanding African-American history and the many struggles and triumphs we’ve had to deal with over the years. It’s taught as a thing of the past even though it never really stopped.

It’s really hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I’ve heard a lot of people say they are uncomfortable. That’s a good start. I’ve been uncomfortable my whole life.

– Staff Writer Eric Russell

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