Alison Curtis: How George Floyd helped me to start the racism conversation with my daughter

IN May, George Floyd became the most talked-about man in the world and for the most horrific reason. He lost his life at the hands of a man entrusted with enforcing the law in the US.
Alison Curtis: How George Floyd helped me to start the racism conversation with my daughter
A demonstrator carries an image of George Floyd in front of a boarded up business decorated with a mural reading "All Black Lives Matter," on Hollywood Boulevard, during a march organized by black members of the LGBTQ community in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Sunday, June 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A demonstrator carries an image of George Floyd in front of a boarded up business decorated with a mural reading "All Black Lives Matter," on Hollywood Boulevard, during a march organized by black members of the LGBTQ community in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Sunday, June 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

IN May, George Floyd became the most talked-about man in the world and for the most horrific reason. He lost his life at the hands of a man entrusted with enforcing the law in the US.

When the appalling image of his final moments surfaced, it reignited action for Black Lives Matter and against systemic injustices that the black community suffers in the US and beyond.

In Ireland, we mobilised as a nation, taking to the streets in organised protests. On a micro level, we started to have more conversations at home about what is happening, why it is happening, and what we can all do better.

In the weeks following George’s passing, I spoke quite intensely with my nine-year-old daughter, Joan. I spoke to her about racism and what it means to be anti-racist.

These were foreign concepts to her. She hasn’t grown up hearing racism expressed in the home and children are naturally not racist: It is something they are taught.

Workers install security fencing and barriers at Lafayette Park near the White House, Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Workers install security fencing and barriers at Lafayette Park near the White House, Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I re-examined what white privilege means: It had slipped to the back of my mind for the past few years.

I also looked at how I could be a better ally and supporter.

For example, I diversified my timelines and who I followed on social media to broaden my outlook and to be better able to see society as a whole.

Importantly, when booking guests and content for my weekend radio breakfast show, I thought more about how I can diversify voices that appear on my programme.

It shouldn’t have taken the loss of George’s life, or Breonna Taylor’s or Ahmaud Arbery’s, for any us to be -re-mobilised.

It is something we should be doing daily and consistently.

We should be doing it to stand up to racism, to call out the person making that joke, to check our biases and, most of all, to ensure our children grow up in a world where equality is valued.

It is difficult, uncomfortable, and in some cases devastating, to start the conversation around racism. But it has to be done.

I did some research into age-appropriate books that support children learning about diversity, as I knew I wanted to have deeper, ongoing conversations with Joan about racism.

People gather in Trafalgar Square, London, after marching through central London, following a Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park, London. (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
People gather in Trafalgar Square, London, after marching through central London, following a Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park, London. (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

There are hundreds of wonderful publications to help parents start the conversation with their children and below are just a few: All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold; The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson; My Hair is a Garden, by Cozbi A Cabrera; Harlem’s Little Blackbird, by Renee Watson; Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni; Fredrick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, by Dean Myers; Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney; The Colour of Us, by Karen Katz; Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose up Against Tyranny and Injustice, by Veronica Chambers; The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, by Vashti Harrison; Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, by Ilyasah Shabazz; This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons On How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work, by Tiffany Jewell

And Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, by Mildred D Taylor: Many people said they had read this for their Leaving Cert and it is suitable for older children and teenagers.

For parents who want more reading suggestions, for their children and for themselves, the website embracerace.org has a great list of book titles for all age groups and they can also check out @weneeddiversebooks, on Instagram, for even more titles.

After all, we, as parents and as a society, have a duty to our children to help them grow up to be open-minded, non-judgemental, supportive, and inclusive human beings.

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