George Floyd murder

Never Too Early to Talk to Children About Racial Justice, Expert Says

A history of police violence has created the need for parents to start conversations with their children about basic human decency and how we treat each other, one expert says

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As the nation continues to digest the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, at least one expert has mixed feelings about it.

Dr. Phillipe Copeland, assistant professor at Boston University School of Social Work and Assist Dir. of Narrative at the BU's Center for Antiracist Research, said while the verdict is just the first step in a long road toward change, as violence still continues.

"On the one hand, we have the verdict that came down related to the officer who murdered George Floyd, said Copeland, who is also an assistant professor of social work. "And yet not even within 24 hours, we hear that there's another incident that took place in Columbus, Ohio, with a teenage girl who was killed by the police."

Copeland was referring to the police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in a call about a knife attack, which happened just minutes before the verdict in the Chauvin trial was read yesterday afternoon.

The violence creates the need for parents to start conversations with their children about basic human decency and how we treat each other.

"Just the way that we talk about Black parents in America having to have, quote unquote, 'the talk' with our children about how to avoid becoming the next George Floyd, we need to be having a conversation with our children about how to avoid becoming the next violent police officer.

"And we can't wait until later to have those conversations. And we can't wait until later to build the moral muscles, the social connection, the value and regard, deep regard, for the lives of others, regardless of these made-up concepts like race, etc., that people use as an excuse to abuse and neglect other human beings.

"And that can start right away because that's really at the root of a lot of this. And if you don't get to the root, you always end up with the fruits," Copeland said.

Despite his mixed emotions following the verdict, Dr. Copeland says he is also hopeful.

"I do find hope right now because I see that there are people, including very young people, who are actively trying to learn to live in a different way, because part of the reason that there's so much of this senseless dying is because there's a lot of senseless living," he says.

It is time to change, Dr. Copeland says, and the good news is that some people, including kids, are doing it, together.

"You know, our past doesn't have to be the future. We have choices to make. And there are opportunities, I think, for folks to move in this moment to connect with other caring people who are trying to learn to live in a different way," he says.

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