In our son’s eight years on this Earth, we’ve had to talk with him about topics that were never a part of my reality at his age. Thanks to a political campaign ad on TV, I just had to answer his question about one of the darkest part of American history. Again, something I didn’t know about when I was eight years old.
Former Congressman John Barrow is now running for Secretary of State in Georgia.
We were watching Wheel of Fortune one night last week when the TV advertisement came on during a commercial break. Barrow describes how his grandparents stood up against lynchings. That campaign claim is followed by a cameo from Ambassador Andrew Young who endorses him. I’m not going to include a link to the video because I don’t endorse or promote candidates. (You can Google John Barrow on your own and find the TV ad.)
A.J. seemed puzzled by the term, “lynching” and asked me what it was.
I paused and really thought about what he’d do with this information once he knew exactly what it meant. As an Atlanta born and bred boy, he’s very aware of the significance of our city in the Civil War era all the way to Civil Rights and the most recent Black Lives Matter protests. I even wrote about his innocence He’s Cute at 4: But Will You Think He’s a Criminal When He’s 14?
So I told my 8-year-old: “There was a time when some White people who didn’t want us to have rights. They would beat and kill Black people in public as a form of intimidation or as punishment for a crime the Black person may not have committed.”
He paused. I could almost see the wheels turning in his brain. A.J. seemed to grasp what a lynching was and that Barrow’s grandparents stood up against them.
A.J. replied, “If I was 18 and I could vote. I’d vote for him!”
A.J.: “Because his family was against lynchings.”
Mama: “First of all, just because his grandparents stood against something bad – doesn’t mean much to me. His grandparents aren’t here. We can’t ask them questions. He doesn’t provide any proof of what he said. And you need to realize that people put things in campaign ads that that aren’t always true. We need to question and investigate things on our own. You can’t believe everything someone who’s running for office says.”
2018 is such a weird time to be a parent. I also didn’t know that A.J. knew who Stormy Daniels was. That’s a deeper conversation that I knew we need to have later.
For us, discussions about Black topics happen every day, almost every hour. From the TV news we watch in the morning before school to the discussions we have about his school day and everything we observe when we drive around Atlanta, we discuss race. It’s a part of our family’s fiber.
Comment below: How would you describe lynchings if your children asked you? How do you answer their questions now about immigration, police brutality and political topics?
If you’re looking to have age-appropriate conversations about our country’s history, see my recommended list of Family-Friendly Black History Month Movies.