SooJin Pate

I’m an Asian American mother who is raising a mixed-Black daughter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My daughter was six years old when Mike Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri, by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. And she had just recently turned seven when police fatally shot Tamir Rice, 12, while he was playing in a Cleveland park.

By that time, she knew about slavery via Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and about segregation via Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. So when I told her about how our country is sad because Black boys and men are being killed by the police, her first response was, “Are they going to kill Daddy?” Her second response: “Are they going to kill me?”

On May 26, 2020, my daughter and I, along with the rest of the world, watched George Perry Floyd call out for his mama. As protests and vigils were being organized, I asked my now 12-year-old daughter if she wanted to participate. She said yes. So we made signs and marched and biked to George Floyd’s memorial site on 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, the corner where he died. By participating in these activities, we ended up having conversations about the importance of protesting, the difference between a riot and an uprising, and the power of being able to grieve and mourn collectively during a national tragedy.

We also immersed ourselves in abolition literature. My daughter took an online class on the history of policing sponsored by Freedom Lifted, in partnership with Chicago Freedom School and Assata’s Daughters.* I started reading articles and attended virtual teach-ins. After my daughter’s class ended, I asked her what she thought of the police prior to taking the course. “I was really scared of them and didn’t like them at all.” Then I asked her what she thought of the police after taking the course: “I like them even less.” I chuckled because I told her I came to the same conclusion after my own self-education.

As the three of us—my daughter, her dad, and myself—gathered over a Father’s Day meal, we talked about George and how incredibly painful this day must be for his children. And we asked ourselves, “When is this ever going to end? When is our country going to stop oppressing and killing Black and Brown people?” The questions hung in the air.

We don’t know when white supremacy will end. But we do know that a temporary salve to white supremacy is immersing ourselves in communities and narratives that remind us of our power, agency, and humanity. We let the questions linger, while we moved on to celebrate our daughter’s final grades from school and honored the father in our midst who has lived through the uprisings of the 1960s only to see a similar unfolding of events nearly 40 years later. The fact that he is still alive is a miracle. So we cherished that moment around the table where father, daughter, and mother reflected back to each other our goodness, our sweetness, and our resilience.

 

*Freedom Lifted provides social justice education through training and tours related to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Deep South. The Chicago Freedom School (CFS) was inspired by the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Era. CFS provides training and education to inspire youth activism, leadership development, and movement building. Assata’s Daughters is an abolitionist organization led by Black women working to inspire and organize young Black people in Chicago through political education, leadership development, and mentorship.