My son turned eight this week. At the end of what was a terrific day of family celebration, I sat both he and his five year old sister down for a brief conversation before bed. My son already knew about what happened to George Floyd and how it upset so many people. This evening, however, I needed to ask them something else.
I asked my kids how they thought people became aware of what precisely happened to Mr. Floyd. My son immediately responded, “Because somebody recorded it.”
I then explained to them both there is always a chance we, too, could run into a bad apple like George Floyd did. I told them if we get pulled over or have this kind of encounter, and my wife is not around, I would slip them my phone, and it would be up to them to discreetly record anything that happened to me.
I then took my son by the hand and asked, “Do you understand why it is so important for you to do this?” Without a word, he locked eyes with me and nodded confidently like a grown man with a solemn responsibility, not like a boy who just turned eight this week.
Whether in a hospital, courtroom, or battlefield, I have spent most of my life trying to protect people. Thus, it is unsettling to realize my kids may have to do this for me, to any degree. However, my wife and I — like countless parents of color — are compelled to do so. We are not naive enough to presume our success immunizes us from police brutality or racial terrorism or that a recording, alone, will protect me from harm.
My son turned eight this week, and while he may not be able to protect my life, he just may protect my soul and justice in my name.