You’re out for a stroll with your two most important people, and there on the sidewalk, in bright pink chalk, are the words.
And your seven year old, who is so proud of her reading, stops to puzzle them out.
“Black. Lives. Matter.” She looks at you. “What does that mean?”
You’re close to home, so you take her home, and you sit her down, and you start to talk.
You talk because thirty-eight years ago, when this was you, people didn’t talk about this. The history books omitted the pain, the history teachers elided the suffering, the redlining, the decades of discrimination and humiliations. Slavery happened, the Civil War, Restoration, Jim Crow happened, and then the Civil Rights movement and we all just moved on and everything got better.
Except we didn’t.
And she’s confused, because it all seems dumb, doesn’t it? That we’d judge people by the color of their skin. Shouldn’t it be simple not to do that?
You tell her about George Floyd, in simple terms, but you tell her. And you cry because you know the mechanics of how he died, and you wish it hadn’t taken that death to get to this. Because you know George Floyd wasn’t the first. You know it all too well.
You know your sorrow is just a drop compared to what others experience. And you cannot fathom how they carry that weight. You cannot fathom what that does to a person, a people, generation after generation.
At the end of it you tell her people are angry, and people are making their voices heard, and then you tell her, “And that’s what makes us great. That’s what makes us America. That we can be heard.”
Except when we can’t, because you know — and you tell her this — there are people who want to take that right away.
You do your best. You wish you had that list of children’s books you saw on Twitter. You’d kill for a children’s book about this stuff right now. But you gotta parent up and do this on your own, so you do it. You’re pretty sure you’re gonna screw this up, but you’re also not going to let this opportunity go.
Because we didn’t talk about this when we were her age, 38 years ago.
And that needs to change.