On Talking to Kids about Police Brutality

Our household is not one of those that constantly has the TV on or the news blaring. We don’t even have a TV. I try not to listen to the news when the kids are around. The news is almost always bad. And often the local stuff is the worst. It’s all murder and car accidents and new threats to worry about. My guess is that there’s a connection between being constantly hitched to the news cycle, which gathers the worst bits of info from around the globe, and feeling anxious.

Sometimes, though, there are news stories we discuss as a family. We talk about the history and about who might be trying to gain what. My kids are still young, but I think it’s good for them to have a basic sense of the political environment in which they live. Sometimes we look at pictures. Sometimes we watch some video. Last Saturday we watched a rocket streak into the Florida sky.

But how do we talk about this—about police brutality? When those we should be able to trust break it. When those who have been granted powers of violence in order to preserve peace sabotage it. When those in charge do nothing forever? For black families having this talk is too often a necessity of survival, but for us it’s an option.

So do I tell my kids that they can trust the police, but others can’t? Do I tell them that our dark skinned friends are . . . what . . . out of luck? What about the officers that live nearby, the ones we wave to? Are they to be trusted?

If my kids look over my shoulder when I’m at my desk and see a white police officer with his knee on the neck of a black man, what do I say? If I show them smoke-filled streets and broken windows, places I recognize now lit by burning cars, what do I say? How do we explain such a world to children? What have the adults been doing?

Psalm 94:1-3

O Lord, you God of vengeance,
    you God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth;
    give to the proud what they deserve!
O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
    how long shall the wicked exult?

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