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Across the US, families are having tough talks about racism

Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Parenting News

One night in late May, Wendy Bohon and her mom were piecing a puzzle together at the dining room table when they heard from the living room a news anchor's somber voice, prepping his audience for what they were about to see.

Bohon knew the general details of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, the way his neck was pinned to the concrete by a white police officer for nearly eight minutes. But she hadn't yet watched the video that would soon ignite a national uprising. And she didn't know what her mom, a fifth-generation Virginian, might say about it.

The mother and daughter got up from the table, stood behind Bohon's dad in his rocking chair, and watched.

Her mom's reaction was immediate and visceral. "They murdered that man," she said, tears filling her eyes.

"For me, that was like, OK," said Bohon, a 44-year-old geologist who lives in Washington. "I see that we're on the same page. You're seeing what I'm seeing."

That moment led to weeks of conversation between Bohon and her conservative-leaning family members about how racism still plagues innumerable institutions in the United States, 400 years after Africans were first brought to its shores.


As thousands have taken to the streets to demand accountability for police violence and rampant racial injustice, many non-Black Americans such as Bohon are for the first time investigating the ways in which they directly contribute to racism and how they might actively fight against it.

They are realizing that there is complicity in their silence around race issues. So now, they are breaking it. And they're starting with family.

"Absent these kinds of conversations, the status quo wins," said Patricia Devine, psychology professor and director of the Prejudice Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And the status quo is being revealed to us to be unacceptable in terms of costing people their lives only because of the color of their skin. That can't stand."

Frannie Kelley, a freelance radio journalist in New York, has been offering support and information to her white Instagram followers who are initiating such conversations in their own circles.


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