"This Week Has Been Hard for Mommy": A TRA Talks about #GeorgeFloyd with her Multiracial Daughter

by Aeriel A. Ashlee

“Take a deep breath.” These four words have become a daily mantra amidst the chaos that is the new normal of my everyday life. A friend, and fellow Korean American adoptee, recently referred to the world right now as a “dumpster fire.” Yeh, that sounds about right. And, it’s my dumpster; my city that is on fire.

It was a bright May morning, we were walking down our back alley toward a large retaining wall made of big boulders. My 19-month-old daughter, who loves to climb everything, starts most of her mornings these days trying to summit the 5-foot “rock wall.” As we made our way to her morning mountain, I told her that we needed to have a serious talk. She scampered away, squealing with anticipation as she neared the base of the wall.

“Baby, are you listening to mommy?” I asked in a serious tone.

“Yeah!” She exclaimed, emphatically nodding her head while reaching up to find her footing to start the ascent.

Taking a deep breath, I started, “Mommy has been having a hard time this week.” I felt unsure of how to put into comprehensible words the mix of emotions that had pummeled me over the previous five days since George Floyd was brutally murdered on camera by Minneapolis police.

“Yeh…” my daughter replied, her voice full of empathy and concern. Her eyes darted between me and the rock wall, searching for where to reach next.

I took a deep breath, lifting my face to the sky, soaking in the warm early-summer sun. I listened to the birds singing and relished in the feeling of my lungs and chest expanding. I live on the North West side of Minneapolis, in a quiet residential neighborhood affectionately called “Bird Town.” When my husband and I moved back to my home state of Minnesota last summer, we knew that we wanted to be in the Twin Cities. As an interracial couple with a young multiracial daughter, we wanted to prioritize living in a racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse community. Yet despite these good intentions we ended up buying a house on a predominantly White block. As I have watched the events in South Minneapolis unfold on my social media feeds, it seemed like what’s happening is a world away.

But in reality, the Cup Foods and Lake Street area, the heart of the protests and the catalyst for what is being called the “Minneapolis Uprising”, is just 20 minutes from where I live.

Recognizing my complicity in all of this through my race and class privilege has caused guilt to surge in my stomach and a sour taste to thicken in my mouth.

But we chose this, we may have justified our decision by rationalizing that we wanted a “safe neighborhood” with “good schools” for our daughter, and we used our positional privilege to prioritize our family’s interests in a society built upon institutional racism.

The helicopter propellers and emergency vehicle sirens from the nearby hospital brought me back to the present moment and my imperfect yet urgent attempt to explain systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and White supremacy to my Asian and White multiracial child.

“A man named George Floyd lost his life this week,” I continued. Immediately, I felt ashamed, knowing that this description was too passive. I paused. Was I really going to talk about murder with my baby? Taking another deep breath, I started again. “He was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Many people are sad, mad, and angry, and they are demanding justice.”

“Justice!” she parroted back to me, making my heart swell.

Taking another deep breath, I stumbled through the words, my heart crushed that I could not protect my not-yet-two-year-old from the hate and hurt of racism. Just two months earlier, a new wave (in a long history) o