In the Turmoil Over Race and Policing, Children Pay a Steep Emotional Price

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Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

In the past week alone, there was the 4-year-old girl in Falcon Heights, Minn., who was captured on video consoling her mother after they watched a police officer shoot the mother’s boyfriend through the window of a car. And there was the 15-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, La., who sobbed uncontrollably in front of television cameras after the similar shooting death of his father.

Then there were the four brothers, ages 12 to 17, whose mother was shot by the sniper who opened fire on officers in Dallas on Thursday night while the family was protesting police violence against blacks. The mother, who survived, threw herself atop one boy, as the others ran for their lives.

Again and again, children are finding themselves enmeshed in the country’s roiling debate over police treatment of African-Americans. The close-up views of violence, obviously traumatizing, are giving rise to a generation of young people who distrust authority, grow up well before their time and suffer nightmares that seem too real.

“As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” said Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of the boy in Louisiana who sobbed over the death of his father, Alton Sterling. “That I can’t take away from him.”

While adults around them protest and demand criminal justice reform, young witnesses of the carnage are reeling from their losses and harboring pent-up depression that often comes pouring out in panic attacks and breakdowns, relatives say.

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

The list of young people burdened by these tumultuous times includes Tamir Rice’s teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after watching the police shoot him in 2014; the daughter of Oscar Grant III, killed by a transit officer while lying down on a California train platform in 2009, who as a 5-year-old would ask playmates to duck when she saw the police; and the 9-year-old nephew of Sandra Bland, who began sleeping in his mother’s room after Ms. Bland’s death last year in a jail cell.

“They are aware of what’s going in the world, of how you can leave your house and you can very well end up in a body bag,” said a sister of Ms. Bland’s, Shante Needham, whose four children continue to struggle with the death of their aunt. “They watch the news. They see all the stuff going on on Facebook. And it’s sad that kids even have to think like that, that if I get stopped by the police, I may not make it home.”…

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Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Reflects On The Origins Of The Movement

From Oscar Grant to Trayvon Martin to Ferguson, the movement has steadily grown in prominence over the past two years.

By , The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — In July 2013, Opal Tometi walked out of a New York movie theater. She had just finished watching Fruitvale Station, a film documenting the lead-up to Oscar Grant’s death at the hands of a police officer in 2009. …

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: (L-R) Black Lives Matter Co-Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi at the The New York Women's Foundation. May 2015. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 14: (L-R) Black Lives Matter Co-Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi at the The New York Women’s Foundation. May 2015. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women’s Foundation)

That is when she discovered that George Zimmerman, who had been charged in the murder of 18-year-old Trayvon Martin, had been acquitted. “I remember sitting on the street corner and getting a slew of text messages, tweets [from] folks who were frantic,” Tometi, who went on to co-found Black Lives Matter, said Wednesday…. 

“I remember in that moment, just sitting with the fact that everybody knew what took place,” Tometi continued. “And despite all the knowledge, despite the testimonies, despite all of that, Trayvon Martin was put on trial for his own death … I was struck with the fact that my younger brother — who was 14 at the time — could have been Trayvon.”

After hearing the news, Tometi was inspired to build a movement to prevent this from happening again. She read a Facebook post by Alicia Garza arguing that the anger people felt was justified and that “black lives matter.” Inspired by Garza’s post, Patrisse Cullors put a hashtag on that crucial phrase and began posting it on social media….

“Beyond just our walls, we need this to actually be very public,” Tometi recalled telling the other two, who would become her co-founders. “We need to have other people interact with this message and also share the work that they’re doing to ensure black lives matter. And how can we, as a collective … make sure that we are coordinated and uplifting a message that will ensure that all of our black lives would matter?”

Using a controversial tactic , the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the speech of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August 2015. (Photo: Alex Garland)

Using a controversial tactic , the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the speech of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August 2015. (Photo: Alex Garland)

“We created #BlackLivesMatter. We created a platform,” she continued. “We used our social media presence online in order to forward a conversation about what is taking place in black communities … This was actually a racial justice project for black people.”

The movement gained significant traction after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. …Asked about the group’s goals, philosophies and tactics — mainly activists disrupting speeches by presidential hopefuls — Tometi said Black Lives Matter is open to a variety of strategies for addressing systemic racism, and doesn’t claim that one tactic is more effective than another.

“You have a duty in this moment in history to take action and stand on the side of people who have been oppressed for generations … Whatever means you need to take, we believe that folks should do that,” she said…Tometi also addressed the allegation that Black Lives Matter is provoking violence. …“When we say black lives matter, we’re not saying that any other life doesn’t matter.

 

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