As if COVID-19 weren’t enough, the Black Community had to endure the horrifying death of George Floyd at the hands of a White police officer.This event not only shocked the United States, but it reverberated across the world, spurring protests, passions, and reigniting a movement that began almost 7 years ago in July of 2013.
Today, I am happy to introduce guest author, Andreana Mabry, LMFT.She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with 7 years of experience working with at-risk youth and their families.Her specialty is helping survivors of trauma in her private practice located in Southern California.Mrs. Mabry has a great passion to make the world a safer place for everyone, including the Black Community. She agreed to share some tips to help parents navigate these difficult times.
***Note: This is a 2-part series. Part1 is written by Andreana Mabry, LMFT. Part 2 is written by Krystal Dreisbach, LMFT.
I’m here as a guest writer to support you wonderful parents with the times we’re living in.
Just to lay down the facts, on Memorial Day, 2020, a man by the name of George Floyd was killed because a police officer knelt on the back of his neck and on his back for nearly 9 minutes. Mr. Floyd was already handcuffed, was not a threat to this officer, and was begging for air, help, and his mom (who had died 2 years ago).
If you are not Black, I recommend you watch the video. I’m Black, and I recommend that other Black people DON’T watch the video, just to protect your own sanity right now. But if you do, you’ll see that people are screaming at the officer in question, that the officer and 3 other officers know that they are on camera, and that no help is rendered to Mr. Floyd at all despite clear signs that he was dying.
There had been a history of unaddressed violence by police officers in that area and in other cities and suburbs across the nation. Protests began due to outrage and despair of an unjust system and have continued for many related reasons. Police officers have responded to protesters in different ways, some protecting protesters, some harming protesters further.
The news coverage and social media coverage of the past few weeks have centered on the protests, and your children might have questions. Many of the tips I am about to share with you are helpful no matter how you identify racially or culturally as a parent. These tips are more specific for parents who are raising children who identify as Black or African American. I identify as Black and will use that term moving forward.
How to Talk about Racism with Children if Your Children are Black
I’m going to be honest, I’m assuming parents of Black children are already doing this. However, when we’re tired, sometimes we forget the basics, so I’m just going to give an overview.
1) Let your child ask you questions and share their thoughts. Clarify information they may have wrong. When 9/11 occurred, very young children thought that airplanes were crashing into buildings over and over again because the news coverage was on a loop. Some of the littlest children might benefit from some context, but you won’t know what their thinking, and what they might have wrong, until you ask.
2) Affirm to your child their right to exist and be free, just like any other child.
3) Explain that many people agree with this right to freedom and point to the thousands of protesters all over the world as people who care about them, not as people who are dangerous.
4) Explain that not everyone they meet will feel the same way in their heart, and that this sometimes includes people who are supposed to help them: teachers, doctors, and law enforcement.
5) Here and there, explain how to keep themselves safe in certain situations: “If mommy ever gets pulled over, she’s going to keep her hands out so the officer can see them, and you will too. When you are walking home after school, make sure you take your hoodie off your head.” Teach them that regardless of them doing “everything right” or not, discrimination is wrong and never their fault.
(Author’s Note: The fact that we still have to do this is NOT RIGHT. It makes me physically ill to have to write this.)
6) Teach them that there are still people in helping roles that are nice, especially if they are little. If you’ve had positive interactions with law enforcement, share that too.
7) Explain that, sometimes, the rules and laws that are supposed to protect ALL Americans don’t always protect Black people.
8) Purchase age appropriate books. Read with them. Expose them to just as much imagery of Black children thriving and celebrating, as they see plenty of our suffering.
9) Teach them to expect their friends to treat them just like anyone else. Allow them to end relationships where peers actively or passively discriminate against them.
10) Teach them their family history and racial history in age appropriate ways. There is often strength and comfort in our stories. Pass them on and teach them to do the same.
11) Give them opportunities to do something to express their feelings. Younger ones could draw a picture for the families grieving or color the sign for the next protest. Older ones can protest or join a club at school.
This is a broad look at things you can say and do with your family now. When you’re ready to do more of your own learning, there are resources here, here, and here. If you follow your local Black Lives Matter chapter on social media, you’ll also find some local plans of action you can participate in. More than anything, remind your kiddos that the things you teach them are to keep them safe, and remind kids of all ages that that they have some power to make the world a better place.
Mrs. Andreana Mabry, M.S., LMFT, is a Black licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Southern California. Trauma Specialist. Aspiring home chef. Pronouns She/Her. Say hi to your dog for her. She can be found at Showupcounseling.com.