“Dear Ignacio, like yourself and many other Black families, my family and I, are once again heartbroken and frustrated with everything that is happening in this country. I have a teenage daughter who has been rightly outraged, and she wants to participate in the protests. We’re all trying to figure this out as a family. She’s been dating a white boy her age, who has been encouraging her to go out despite my concerns. I am deeply conflicted as I don’t think my daughter or her boyfriend understand the risks involved, even COVID stuff aside. My daughter WILL be targeted by the police, before he does and if she gets arrested, I worry what could happen to her. I (a Black man) was arrested once before I was married and was sexually assaulted by some officers while in jail. I have never shared this story with my children. I don’t even know if I can. There are too many emotions to sort out. I want to support my daughter and our fight. But I am worried. How can I handle this?”
Thank you so much for writing to us and expressing your concerns. It is indeed a very difficult, painful and infuriating time we are in. It is frustrating to be the target of state-sanctioned violence and murder in the hand of the very police force that is supposed to be protecting us.
Anti-Blackness is thick in the air and those at the margins or in solidarity are the only ones seeing the smoke. The concerns and complexities you are holding are valid. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place with this one-of-a kind pandemic and the continued cycle of structural racism, both impacting Black communities disproportionately.
These are unprecedented circumstances, as it was in The Children Crusade in Alabama, The Little Rock Nine in Arkansas, and The Greensboro Four in North Carolina. Young people have always taken to the streets in protest. This is how change is made. Whether her white boyfriend encourages her or not, it is up to you (her parents) to talk with her (and not at her).
Your daughter is old enough for open conversations about Black struggles, police violence, liberation strategies and victories. Give her tools that she can use. You can suggest or even tell her not to protest but if she does, you know she will be safer with the tools you give her. I have provided a number of resources below that you can use to have conversations about protesting safely and other relevant subjects with your daughter.
Another tool is role-playing getting stopped by cops. Both your daughter and her boyfriend can benefit from understanding this context and potential risks. You can discuss the boyfriend's role if they did go to the protests together. Talk to him about how he could be an ally and stand in solidarity with your daughter rather than putting her in danger.
You can also have a video chat with your daughter's boyfriend's parents. If you haven’t yet, I suggest opening up the conversation about race. There are realities of their White son dating your Black daughter that can be discussed.
Sadly, there are many men who have suffered from sexual assault by the police but never report it or tell their stories. Sexual violence has long been used as a tool of oppression in war, and racism is a war against Black people. But the decision to disclose is yours and only yours.
As you talk with your daughter, her boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s parent, you can always bring up a conversation about sexual violence as another intersection of racism. Your daughter needs to know that she will have your support no matter what, even if your fears about an arrest and sexual violence by the police come true.
Truth is that Black women experience sexual violence of many kinds on an ongoing basis, so getting real about it and making sure that she knows her home and her parents are a safe sanctuary are key. Make sure you check out the resources that I have included.
Twenty Years Later: The Police Assault on Abner Louima and What it Means
Police violence will make it harder to fight COVID-19
What George Floyd Protests Mean for the Coronavirus Pandemic
How Black Youth Impacted the Civil Rights Movement
The Ms. Q&A: Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza on Getting Intersectionality Right"Right now, we are facing a re-organization of power, in which those in power have a clear and coordinated agenda to continue to disenfranchise and marginalize and otherwise disempower the various communities that are the engines for this country.”
Addressing Racism’s Toll: My Minneapolis Experience"At a certain point, it becomes hopeless and seemingly pointless for people of color to talk about the myriad ways in which racism affects their lives if white friends, coworkers and 'allies' are not listening.”
26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets “This list is designed to celebrate all the ways that our communities can engage in liberation. For a range of reasons, there are and always have been folks who cannot attend rallies and protests but who continue to contribute to ending police and state violence against black people.”
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