Parents of black children share their fears

Parents are giving their perspective on why George Floyd’s death is part of a systemic problem that has to end and why they fear for their own African American sons.

“I’ve had tears in my eyes every day because every African American mother that watched that go down not only saw the face of Mr. Floyd, but we saw the face of our own son. We saw the face of our own husband,” says Clarenda McGrady, the mother of 11-year-old and 14-year-old sons.

“I see my sons. I see my nephews who are in their 20s. I see my husband.  I see my brother,” adds Ashley Alston, the mother of 11-year-old and 19-year-old sons.  

“And when he called out to his mother, whew it was rough,” adds McGrady with tears in her eyes.

“I’ve cried. I keep crying, I’m tired of crying and I’m angry. I’m angry,” says Sheryl Seymore, the mother of 23-year-old and 26-year-old sons.

“I kind of feel like we’re reliving history, which feels like we haven't made much progress in the last 60 years. My concerns for my sons? That they’ll still be dealing with the issues that my grandparents had to deal with and their grandparents before them,” says Christopher McDaniel, the father of 5-year-old and 2-year-old sons.

“When I think about my son he’s such a cute little kid and very unsuspecting.  When I think about him going out into the world my concerns are he won’t be viewed as the sweet little boy that we all know and love. For me it’s very concerning because he’s not equipped with the tools of hate,” says Phillip Dunn, the father of a 10-year-old son. 

“My concerns for my sons are the world won’t see them for their intelligence. The world won’t see them for their creative spirit, for their love of life, love of God, love of family. They won’t see that but they will see them possibly as a threat, as a menace, as someone who’s less then,” adds McGrady.

“We’re coming up on 400 years of these mindsets that have been built and created to devalue black lives. So we’re going to have to spend some time, both black folks and white folks searching our hearts,” says Dunn.

“It also requires more support from people who look like me. I will have to have conversations with my son that my father didn’t have with me,” says Paul Young, a Caucasian man who’s married to an African American woman. The couple now has a 3-month-old son.

“I also need the parents of my sons’ non-black friends to know when my boys are at your house I need you to protect them. When I call and say ‘what are the boys doing’ and you’re like ‘oh they’re running through the neighborhood being wild with all the other neighborhood boys.’ My heart stopped because my boys don’t have the privilege of running through an all-white gated community, running wild doing what boys do,” says McGrady. 

“You just don’t understand you can’t be outside late at night in this neighborhood playing basketball.  Yes you’re at your house in your driveway but you can’t do it,” adds Alston.

“My brothers and sisters in the white community don’t have to teach their children that. So they’re able to move about freely and do certain things that my son just can’t.  We do everything they tell us we should do, get the education, get the great job, move to the great neighborhood but you can’t escape the ravages of systemic racism. I feel like I’m cheating my son out of just being a free individual but I want him alive,” says Dunn.

“As African Americans we need to come to our white brothers and sisters, non-blacks that genuinely love us and care for us and there are so many and we need to broaden the conversation. We have to ask them to join us in this fight,” says McGrady.

“You have to stand with us.  You have to unite with us.  Use your voice. This isn’t the time to be silent. Stand up for what’s right,” adds Alston.