Teens on TikTok are exposing a generational rift between parents and kids over how they treat Black Lives Matter protests

insider@insider.com (Hanna Lustig)
Izabella, 15, uploaded a viral TikTok about her family's racist take on the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

@izabellamiletello/TikTok

  • TikTok has been flooded with #blacklivesmatter content following the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and the subsequent protests that have rippled across the globe. 
  • Many Gen Z kids have found themselves clashing with parents over racial justice issues.
  • Now, some are taking to TikTok to express their frustration over the difficult conversations they're having with parents and relatives to bring them up to speed on the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Social media is awash with earnest shows of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The best of these posts have been materially useful to the cause. Others, less so. But on TikTok, Gen Z is modeling the most important tenet of allyship: taking it upon yourself to research, point out, and confront racism, especially when it feels risky or uncomfortable to do so.  

Fifteen-year-old Izabella, for example, documented her family's frustrating response to George Floyd's killing while in police custody, in a TikTok with more than 1.5 million views. 

"I literally hate my family so much," Izabella said, eyes wet from crying. "It's just. They just tried to argue with me that George Floyd — like, they just tried to tell me that he deserved that 'cause he did something wrong, and that it was okay. That is not okay. And it's just making me so upset. I don't know. I do not wanna live here. I hate livin' in Louisiana. I hate livin' around these racist f-cks. Like, I just wanna leave."

In two days, her TikTok following went from roughly 50 to 17,000 people. After picking up traction on the platform, her video eventually landed on Twitter when culture critic Safy-Hallan Farah shared it.

"My sister sent me a TikTok of a white girl crying about her parents saying George Floyd deserved to die, tearfully disowning them," she wrote. "There's a whole genre of white gen z kids processing in real-time what's new information to them (but not us), that their parents are sociopaths."

Izabella told Insider she doesn't normally use Twitter, but after a friend passed along Farah's tweet, she quickly created an account and replied.

"Idk how I got on Twitter but I can't believe that's me," she wrote.

In response, Farah offered the Louisiana teenager a bit of sound advice.

"Hey, if this is you: I'm sorry you're distressed and hurt," Farah tweeted. "I hope you find a way to make your voice count and please go no contact with your parents."

For Izabella, the argument marked the first time she'd ever disagreed with her parents' political beliefs. She says for now, her family is unaware of the viral TikTok. 

"I really got my opinion on BLM when I realized we all are the same," she explained. "We bleed the same blood...But that does not make you any different from anyone else and my parents' views are the cause [of] a lot of crime."

Since that conversation, she hasn't broached the subject again. She has, however, continued to use her feeds to make her stance on police brutality clear. Her parents, however, would not allow her to participate in the ongoing protests.

"The last conversation I had with them about it, I got so frustrated I started crying as you saw in that TikTok," she continued. "And I don't want to bring it up again. Like, it makes me so upset that they think like that, and the whole George Floyd situation is so messed up and sad it makes me cry, too."

Elaborating on the everyday racism she has observed in her community, which is located in the deep south, Izabella said she routinely hears white people "saying the n-word and making fun of black people."

"It makes me sick," she added.

Izabella isn't the only teen doing the hard work of confronting racism at home.

On Monday, 16-year-old TikTokker Grace shared a tearful excerpt from a conversation with her father. 

"Why can't I just speak my mind about it without anyone getting mad?" she asked her father in the clip, which was filmed using her front-facing camera.  

"Because you won't stop," he replied. "And it's really, really, really annoying."

"Because I'm trying to say that black lives matter?" the teen asked, visibly upset. 

"You said that, and now you're good," her father said. "You just keep talking about it and talking about it...We can choose not to listen because you've already said all of your points. And then you just keep going on and going on and going on. And it's ruining — it's just like, ruining the day."

Grace expressed her desire to protest peacefully in the clip, but the family is apparently five hours away from home on a camping trip. Brewer's father suggested she "maybe take a break" from the news cycle. 

 "I don't want to," she interjected. "Because this is f-cking terrible."

"It is," her father agreed.

@hadtodoittoem69

someone pick me up and take me to a protest. i want to protect innocent lives. i don’t care if i get shot. ##blacklivesmatter ##blm ##georgefloyd

♬ original sound - hadtodoittoem69

Meanwhile, other teen allies are uploading dramatized re-enactments of the tense conversations they're having with their parents. 

@.natural.selection

anyways have a good weekend ##SpaceForceWalk ##blacklivesmatter ##blm ##justiceforgeorgefloyd

♬ Stupid Dinosaur - deviousdevi

@nefariousking

okay this actually made me emotional ##fyp ##thisisamerica ##blmmovement ##dad ##racism ##home ##rip ##justiceforeach

♬ POV - ryleexjacobs

There's also a growing contingent of young people, including 22-year-old Taylor Williams, who are chronicling their parents' attempts to prevent them from protesting. In lieu of attending, Williams affixed strongly worded signs to the side of their car. 

"My parent has threatened to kick me out if I go protest, so I'll protest everywhere I go," Williams captioned the recent TikTok.

@wxtchbxtch1997

##blm ##blmmovement ##ally ##protest ##fyp

♬ Wipe It Down - BMW KENNY

Ally, a 17-year-old TikTokker, was pepper-sprayed twice while trying to photograph a protest in Kansas City against her parents' wishes. In a video taken of Ally while a fellow protester was tending to her medical needs, she noted that her parents didn't know she was there.

"You're recording," a voice behind the camera warned.

"Well, oh well," Ally replied. "I guess they will now." 

When her mother found out, Ally's phone was temporarily taken away, although she's since regained access to the device and used it to continue signal-boosting Black Lives Matter. 

@insertcleveruser

⚠️don’t watch if you are easily squeamish⚠️ I thought this was important to share ##blmmovement ##blacklivesmatter ##protests ##blm ##ally

♬ original sound - insertcleveruser

TikTok is a short-form video app that often leans into vacuousness, but Gen Z has found a way to make it not only useful, but essential during this time. 

 

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