Bridging the Divide: Kids and their parents dealing with racism in everyday life

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dealing with racial issues is tough enough for adults, but consider the impact on children.

WREG’s April Thompson sat down with several Memphis parents and their children to discuss how they tackle the topic of racism.

“I mean it’s kinda stupid for people to think that they just hate you because you have another skin color. That’s just wrong,” said Asher Parish, 10.

After images of George Floyd’s killing went public, kids have questions.

“At first I only had one question. Why? Why would go out on the street and kill somebody for almost no reason?” asked Aiden, 12.

Patricia Lockhart makes sure her son Aiden knows about it.

“I want him to know what is going on in society,” Lockhart said. “I don’t want him to go out and be surprised about how someone reacts because he is a young black boy.”

Christie and Jan Johnson want their son Thomas ready for what will come.

“We know that most likely at some point in their lives, they are gonna be referred to as the N word,” Christie Johnson said. “We feel like we have prepared them to say, ‘I knew that was coming and that hurt. Mom and dad said it would hurt.’”

Lori Parish wants her son Asher to have a different experience than what she saw.

“My husband and I were raised in a predominantly white school, white neighborhood,” Parish said. “We can’t talk to our kids about race if we don’t have a diverse friend group.”

Alia Hourani and her 15-year-old sister Yesmeen were born in America, but say they are often the victims of racism.

“We talk about it obviously,” she said. “We look different. We go out. We get the looks, whatever. Even with police we get sometime depending on the area we are in. You go to certain areas, you are on high alert.”

Memphis psychologist Dr. Charlotte Freeman counsels families.

“As parents, we have to start by acknowledging our own thoughts and feelings and how we feel because we are teaching our children every day,” Freeman said. “It is one thing to verbally say we should embrace differences. It’s another that our actions actually show that. That we are actually loving, and compassionate and accepting of different cultures into our family, into our network, into our actually dealings with one another.”

“We go to different places in Memphis where I know they are not gonna just see Black kids. I want them to be diverse in every form of their life,” Patricia Lockhart said.

The Johnsons believe in diversity too. But they also are clear with their children about the risks.

“When we open that door and send them out, my heart is racing,” Christie Johnson said. “There is a sickness in the pit of my belly, every single time.”

“You have to teach them daily how to not get killed,” Ian Johnson said. “Hey son, if the police tells you to do something, do what he says.”

“This is not just TV,” Christie Johnson said. “This is the life that we are living.”

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