What parents and caregivers can say and do in response to the tragic killing of Daunte Wright

By Leah Persky, PhD & Certified Family Life Educator  • Family Life Education Manager

The recent killing of Daunte Wright has left our communities grappling yet again with the tragedy and trauma of senseless killings of African Americans. How does this continue to happen? Is there any way to make something meaningful out of this senseless act of violence? How can parents make the world safer for all families while comforting and protecting their own children?

The killing of Daunte Wright follows so closely on the heels of other similar tragedies that have left their traumatic imprint on so many, and in so many ways. We simultaneously mourn for Daunte Wright while our communities grapple with the trial of the police officer who killed George Floyd less than a year ago. What can parents say or do? Based on our responsibilities toward our neighbors, silence or inaction is not an option; rather we must come together under the banner of Antiracism and do something. White families and communities can embrace Antiracism and work to be part of the solution (for more on this see https://www.ibramxkendi.com/books-1).

Just as we have dealt with past challenges, we can address this recent tragedy with compassion, an open heart, honesty, and now I think even more importantly, a focus on how we can be part of the solution of making our world more fair and just. This seems like an overwhelmingly large task, but it is possible. We can all dedicate ourselves and our families to being part of the solution and the movement to make our world a better place, if not for us, than for future generations. We know that to continue as we are is not humane, sustainable, or just.

For specific recommendations about talking with the children in your life about racism and other recent traumatic events, check out some of these past JFCS blog posts: How to Talk to your White Kids about Racism by Natalie Quiring-Oleson or Talking to your Kids about the U.S. Capitol Attacks, which I wrote just a few months ago. Many of these suggestions you may also find applicable to this most recent tragedy.

What can we do as parents and caregivers?

  1. Be direct, clear, and concise. Answer questions to the best of your ability and admit what you do not know. I used this recommendation myself recently as my children were asking about the 7 p.m. curfew. They left the conversation feeling more settled and safe. We said we would talk more about it all tomorrow. These are ongoing conversations.
  2. Emphasize action and how we can come together as a community and nation to address racism in policing and in our society. There are many ways to get involved, even during a pandemic. For example, support Black-owned businesses, amplify Black voices, and call out racism if you encounter it. For ideas, check out the following: Stand Against Racism and UNICEF-USA Taking a Stand Against Racism.
  3. Learn together. Learning about racism, prejudice and antiracism can start as young as 3 years old. There are many excellent age-appropriate resources for children of all ages. Set aside time to read books and research past events that help to put racism and inequality in context. Raising awareness of systemic racism and inequality in society will help children make sense of the world and inspire them to get involved to address challenges in their communities. Making local-to-global connections will help to raise globally-minded and aware citizens. Here is an excellent list of resources for white children to learn about racism and white supremacy, and here is a resource list focused on anti-racist books for kids and teens that were selected by librarians who are BIPOC.
  4. Highlight the good. Emphasize to your children that most people are good, and there is so much love and caring in the world. Children (and adults) crave feeling safe and supported. Emphasize who and where the helpers are in your neighborhood and explore good deeds that you and others have done and will continue to do, despite everything that we are currently witnessing. Speaking of doing good, why not participate in Good Deeds Day with PJ Library. To participate, sign up here to receive a Kindness Kit, which focuses on antiracism and social justice.

None of this is easy, but as parents and loved ones, we can do it. With love, action, and coming together, we can work towards a better world for our families and for all communities. We all must step in and take action that is inspired by love and justice. We must teach our children this as well. Our world does not have to remain the way it is, a sentiment that Governor Walz recently offered, and indeed it truly cannot stay this way.

With an open heart, a desire to work towards a safer and more just world, and thoughtful and authentic action, we as individuals, families and communities, can come together and work to create a better future. Many parents and caregivers have already started along this journey by bringing awareness to racial injustice and by taking action with their family to be part of the solution. This is hard and necessary work. I recognize how challenging and emotional this needed work is. Together we will make a better, safer and more just world. If you or your family need support along the way, just call JFCS (952-546-0616). We are Here for All. Always.