How did you feel when you first learned of what happened to George Floyd on May 25, 2020?
Horrified. Traumatized. Mortified. I felt the most visceral and deepest anger that I think I have ever felt in my whole entire life.
Did you view the video? If so, what emotions and thoughts did you have upon seeing the video?
I initially watched perhaps 20-30 seconds, I’m not sure exactly how much but not the whole thing. I think because I had heard the outcome without seeing it—when I had clicked into the video and saw what was happening, I turned the video off and sobbed. I think for many of us who are parents, our parent instinct kicked in, and all I could think about was Mr. Floyd’s mother and the horror of having a video of your child being brutally and slowly murdered going viral. I sobbed at the trauma of that for her and his family.
But much later, I ended up having a different experience and perspective about the video that I am still really sitting in discomfort about. During the trial of Derrick Chauvin, my two teenage children came home from school and my son said to me, “Mom, did Derrick Chauvin really murder George Floyd?” and proceeded to tell me that kids at his school were insisting the Mr. Floyd died because he was on drugs and that he was a drug addict. I still feel this sense of shame about this, but I pulled up the video and just played a short part of it and had a discussion with my kids. I asked them a lot of questions about what they saw and how they understand “innocent until proven guilty,” and I asked them which of the two people in the video got to experience the privilege of “innocent until proven guilty.” Then we talked about this . . . the fact that their friends insisted that Mr. Floyd died not of murder but because he was “guilty” of being a drug addict. I explained that this is systemic racism. Mr. Floyd’s family doesn’t deserve to bear the burden of having to be the teaching example of systemic racism. I both hate that it’s true that they don’t deserve that . . . and the impact of my kids seeing for themselves what happened and that their friends were unequivocally wrong was the lesson I needed them to get and to sink in solid and deep.
How did you feel when the Derek Chauvin verdict was announced?
I felt a little hollow honestly. It was important that he was convicted, and it was important that his sentence reflected the crime. And, it is also true that so many people in my personal circles will point to this and ONLY this as the justification for their belief that the system works and works equally well for everyone.
What actionable steps have you taken since the murder of George Floyd?
Immediately after Mr. Floyd’s murder I co-hosted several white talking circles at my home. These were places for white people to safely talk through their questions about vocabulary and their simultaneous desire and fear in speaking up and showing allyship. Since then, I am trying to use up any ounce of privilege I have, standing either beside or behind historically marginalized people in allyship with them. God gives me opportunities every day to practice patience and understanding as I try to meet people where they are in their understanding of race in this country and ratchet my own emotions down to encourage them to be vulnerable and curious enough to learn and unlearn what we’ve been taught as white people. If you want to practice things you aren’t good at, God will give you the opportunity, but it doesn’t mean the opportunity is easy or comfortable.