Reese Witherspoon Says Discussing Racism With Her 7-Year-Old Son Was 'Heartbreaking'

Amelia Edelman

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Literally the only up side of this week — which began with Minneapolis police officers murdering Black father of two George Floyd (who was unarmed and suspected of forgery) in cold blood while he begged for mercy and cried that he couldn’t breathe — is that discussions of systemic racism have been brought to the forefront. So many of us parents are having hard conversations with our young children right now about why and how we could possibly live in a country in which such killings occur — and what we can do to fight back. And that goes for celebrity parents, too.

“Last night at dinner, my 7-year-old asked why all the grown ups were so upset,” Reese Witherspoon wrote on Friday of this week (which, thankfully, ended in one of the police officers being arrested for murder). “We spoke to him about what happened to George Floyd. Being a white mother trying to explain racism and bigotry to her white son, who did not understand why anyone would treat another human being that way, was heartbreaking. But not nearly as heartbreaking as being a victim of one of these senseless, violent, unconscionable crimes. Not nearly as heartbreaking as being one of the families who have experienced loss and harassment and discrimination daily. Not nearly as heartbreaking as being a mother who lives in fear of what will happen to her children in this world.”

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Indeed, Witherspoon is speaking from a place of immense privilege. After all, she is white, and wealthy, and her son is never going to fear for his life simply because of the color of his skin. But does that mean parents like Witherspoon — like any of us white folks — are exempt from addressing systemic racism with our kids and speaking out against it and against police violence? Hell no. In fact, it is all the more our responsibility to lift up Black voices and fight for Black lives. Whether any of us like it or not, we are in a society in which white voices are the ones that get listened to. It’s time we changed that — starting with our kids. They are, after all, the future.

“We all breathe the same air,” Witherspoon’s post continues. “We all bleed the same blood. But that is not what I grew up seeing. It was as hard for me to reconcile the difference between what I was taught in church and what I see in the world. I don’t want that for my kids. Or for yours. We have to be held accountable for what is happening in this country. What happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — and countless others — can not go without justice. Please talk to your children about racism, privilege, bigotry and hate. If you aren’t talking to them, someone else is.”

Time to get to work: These tips on how to teach kids to be allies are a good place to start. Or for very young children, start the conversation about race and diversity with these fantastic kids books starring girls of color.

Launch Gallery: The Children's Books Starring Girls of Color Every Kid Should Read

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