How I Spoke to My Black Child About Why the Cops Treated Capitol Rioters Differently Than BLM Protestors
"Even though I'm a proud Black girl, I try not to think that the reason so many bad things happen is because people are racist—even though I know that a lot of people do hate us just because of the color of our skin." That's what my ninth-grade daughter told me when she watched the chaos at the U.S. Capitol unfold last week.
We watched what she described as a "reality show" on CNN as I was (supposed to be) working remotely and she was attending school online. I often have news on as a backdrop while I am working but on January 6, the background noise became the main attraction and a major derailment from our remote working environment.
Both my daughter and I watched the insurrection at the Capitol in real time, expressing disbelief while being unable to take our eyes off the screen. "It's like a movie, Mom," she said as we watched Trump supporters storm toward and eventually break into the Capitol building in order to try to stop lawmakers from certifying the 2020 election results. "I wish it were a movie," I said, "but unfortunately we can't tune out or turn off evil and hate and this is exactly what we are witnessing."
And then a confused look took over her face with a statement I knew was coming: "If they were Black, they would have been shot or killed already. It would have never gotten this far if any of them were Black or brown. Look what they did to all the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters after George Floyd—and they weren't even all Black."
The comparison was all over social media that day and the days that followed. Minneapolis police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in May 2020 on those protesting the death of Floyd, the Black man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck. But at the Capitol, there appeared to be little resistance. To make matters worse, Trump, who called BLM protesters "thugs," "terrorists," and "anarchists," told the Capitol rioters: "We love you. You're very special."
Despite being a former military child raised on military posts or in military-friendly neighborhoods where she and her siblings were usually one of few, if not, the only children of color, my daughter lived a somewhat sheltered life until a retirement and pending divorce forced us to relocate. It wasn't until around her thirteenth birthday when we sat down to watch When They See Us, Ava DuVernay's 2019 award-winning Netflix miniseries about the Central Park Five, that her worldview was shattered. And almost a year later, she was traumatized seeing Floyd's brutal murder on television, along with learning of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, and the serious injury of Jacob Blake. Discussions on race have since become common in our house, but they rarely get easier.
These Trump supporters were not peaceful or compliant; they were braggadocious. They blatantly broke laws on camera while wearing anti-Semitic and pro-Confederate attire in the name of Trump and the Make America Great Again movement. The inevitable question from my daughter came: "Why did law enforcement treat these Capitol rioters differently than BLM protesters?"
It's a question that can't be danced around or made politically correct. The answer is as obvious as it is true: institutional and systemic racism. Point. Blank. Period. So that's what I told her. My daughter, like our country, deserves the unfiltered, ugly truth so we can work like hell to change it.
For some further reading on how to talk to your kids about Black history check out Parents.com's Anti-Racist Curriculum, here.