• Simone de Muñoz

Black Lives Matter and Children

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

June 7, 2020

I took my children to a Black Lives Matter protest the other day. This is the conversation we had prior to attending.

Me: A lot of people are protesting right now.

Kids: Why?

Me: A police officer killed someone.

Kids: How did the police officer kill the person?

Me: He put his knee on the man’s neck while the man was on the ground handcuffed.

Kids: Why would he do that?

Me: The man was black and police officers don’t treat black people fairly. This is not the first time this has happened. A lot of black people have been killed by police officers.

Kids: (shocked)

Me: So we’re going to the protest to support black people.

Kid 1: I don’t want to go to the protest. I’m afraid.

Me: Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, it means you’re afraid and you do it anyway.

Kid 1: I still don’t want to go.

Me: We need to support people who are afraid all the time and don’t have a choice.

Kid 2: Why are they afraid?

Me: They’re afraid that the police might hurt them, too. They don’t feel safe anywhere.

Kid 2: I want to go!

Kid 1: (Reluctantly agrees to go.)

We were at the protest very briefly until Kid 1 felt overwhelmed by the noise and the crowd and wanted to go home.

Children are by nature self-centered. If something is happening in the world that doesn’t affect them directly, they simply don’t care. I see this attitude in many adults, too. I always thought of it as selfishness, but maybe it’s actually immaturity. A mature person sees how we are all connected and cannot be satisfied living in his own bubble without a thought about others because he is curious and compassionate.

I was in the car with my older son when a Hidden Brain podcast episode came on discussing racial health disparities. The average expected life span of black men was already 4 years less than that of white men and now black people have been dying of coronavirus at disproportionate rates. I asked my son if he understood. He said he did, but I know I need to go back and explain it to him in careful detail.

How to get children to feel compassion for others and move toward societal change? I don’t have the answer. I’m doing what I usually do, which is taking things one step at a time: one conversation, one protest, one podcast. Like any tough subject matter with children, circumstances arise which lead to a conversation and parents should be ready. We need to model doing necessary and important things that make us feel uncomfortable for our children.

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