In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Lauryn Whitney, a Black mom of a 3-year-old boy, created a video that shows the terror of racism in America for parents and their children.

By Maressa Brown
June 15, 2020
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Credit: Photo courtesy Lauryn Whitney

In the days that have followed George Floyd's murder, parents everywhere are raising their voices and taking action. For Lauryn Whitney, a Los Angeles-based Black mom to a 3-year-old Black boy, that looked like producing a deeply emotional video entitled, "Ask Yourself," that urges white people to consider the powerful question: When exactly does a Black boy become a threat?

The video opens with Whitney stating, "I dare you. Ask yourself. When did my baby become a threat to you?" What follows are clips of Black boys, from Kindergarten age to adults, asking if that moment was when they "started to crawl," "started to speak," "started to dream," "finally earned my degree," "when I wear a mask to protect you and myself," among a variety of daily moments and milestones in a Black boy and man's life.

The question proposed by the video is one Whitney has been grappling with since she found out she was expecting a boy.

"In 2016, when I got pregnant, I just prayed that I was having a girl," she explains. "But I realized in my spirit I was not having a girl. At my 12-week visit, I began crying when they told me I was going to have a son. This was also during the time that literally almost every single day, there was another young Black boy who was being shot and killed by police brutality."

That said, Whitney could only think of one thing as she and her husband left the doctor's office, and he tried to urge her to focus on the fact that they were having a healthy baby. To that, she replied, "Yeah, but it's a boy, and how am I going to protect him?" Whitney observes, "That was the reality—not just in 2016, but it was the reality that my mother had to deal with, that my grandmother had to deal with, that any Black woman who has ever birthed a boy has had to deal with."

Not long after welcoming her son, Whitney accompanied her husband on a trip to New Orleans, as her husband was filming a show there. "I went out to lunch by myself, my baby was three months old, and a white woman I did not know came and said, 'Let me hold that baby. He's so cute,'" explains Whitney. "She tried to take him out of my arms, and I literally got up from the table and ran out of the restaurant. It was so much trauma."

Credit: Photo courtesy of Lauryn Whitney

So when Whitney heard George Floyd call out for his mother, she couldn't help but recall the trauma she had experienced in Louisiana. "The incident reminded me of being objectified by white people—especially our babies, and even a little boy being objectified—but then at a certain time, he's no longer cute to you," she says. "This child you had wanted to take out of my hands is a child you want to take in your hands and kill at gunpoint because you're scared of him."

Whitney decided to pour her pain into art. "I just wailed and I said, 'Enough is enough, and I have to say something,'" she recalls. "George Floyd was calling for his mom. When did he become a threat? This is the question." She proceeded to write the script of the video while on the phone with a dear friend who she describes as "a woman of color and a phenomenal example of an ally." Then, Whitney reached out to friends and family members who recited Whitney's lines in the clips edited together for the final product.

Since it was posted on May 29, Whitney's video has been viewed over 193K times. But Whitney hopes that it will inspire action beyond the click of a mouse.

"I've had a lot of white people reach out and ask what they should do or say, 'I stand with you,'" she notes. "I've recorded videos on Instagram in response and said, 'I'm not here to tell you what to do. Your job is to go out there and educate yourself on what to do.'"

She encourages white parents to consider a wide spectrum of examples of white supremacy and white privilege in daily life. One example: "A white woman can get pregnant and have a son and have a daughter, and there's no work in having to think about how they're going to raise their child other than 'what school do I need to apply for while I'm six months pregnant to make sure they're in the right elementary school?'" points out Whitney. "And I get pregnant and my thought is, 'How I do protect my son's breath before he even takes his first breath?' That’s privilege."

Ultimately, Whitney believes that educating yourself as a parent about anti-racism, advocating, and using your voice looks different for everyone.

"I'm not saying everybody has to be out there protesting," she says. "I'm not saying everybody needs to make their social media platform one where they're saying, 'This is what I stand for, and you need to do this.' But I am saying the biggest form of advocacy is starting with your personal self. Looking inside and saying, where do I uphold white supremacy in my life, how do I benefit from white supremacy in my life, and am I willing to deconstruct that for justice?"

As for Whitney, she plans to continue to use the power of storytelling to create change, noting, "I’ve learned to fight, and I will fight to make sure that tomorrow is brighter and better for my son and every single child that looks like him."

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