Opinion - U.S. News

Op-Ed: What we need to do for our black daughter after the killing of George Floyd

Key Points
  • George Floyd's death, which was caught on video, allowed everyone to see what the black community has endured for decades.
  • But to my wife and I, both white, it's a symbol of a world that we must prepare our baby girl for.
  • We don't for one minute pretend to know what it's like to be black, but we know we want to be part of the solution to create a more inclusive and just world. 
A man holds up his fist during a protest near the White House on May 31, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

I am heartbroken that my baby daughter, who is black, has to grow up in a world where the killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis, or of any unarmed person of color, can happen.

Floyd's death, which was caught on video, allowed everyone to see what the black community has endured for decades. He is one of many black people who have died at the hands of police and have become symbols of our broken society, as have the protests erupting across the nation.

But to my wife and I, both white, it's a symbol of a world that we must prepare our adopted daughter for. We don't for one minute pretend to know what it's like to be black, but we know we want to be part of the solution to create a more inclusive and just world. 

We wanted to adopt in order to share our love and open our home to a child who needed a family. While going through the process and learning about adopting a baby of a different race, we were given valuable training to prepare us for what a black child being raised by white parents might face. The adoption agency opened our eyes to the danger of the term "color blind."  Although well intended, it is akin to saying you don't see what is happening to minorities. 

We learned that most people of color face subtle and not-so-subtle bias on a daily basis, something that we, as white people, do not experience.  We learned that most black families have discussions with their kids, instructing them to be respectful of authority, especially police, because it could life-threatening not to.

My wife and I dread the day when we will have to talk to our daughter about the dangers of this bias. And for her, it may be even more confusing because she's growing up in a loving white family. It's our job to make sure she understands that not everyone will look at her and get to know the wonderful, funny and smart child who we see every day.  And it's our job to give her the tools to rise above it.

On our adoption journey, I came to understand more fully the true meaning of white privilege. As an editor at CNBC.com, I write and edit stories every day about creating wealth and the power of building a solid financial future. It would be easy to take it for granted that everyone has access to the ability to make this happen. But that's not the case.

BET founder Robert Johnson and Merck CEO Ken Frazier described why white privilege is a privilege in interviews on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. 

VIDEO4:1404:14
BET founder Bob Johnson calls for $14 trillion of reparations for slavery

"Think about this," said Johnson, 74, who made history as America's first black billionaire when he sold BET to Viacom in 2001. "Since 200-plus-years or so of slavery, labor taken with no compensation, is a wealth transfer."

He called for $14 trillion of reparations for slavery to help reduce racial inequality. He added that reparations would send the signal that white Americans acknowledge "damages that are owed" for the unequal playing field created by slavery and the decades since.

While reparations seem unlikely in today's political environment, business leaders need to be a force of change, according to Frazier, 65, who leads one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. "What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human."

He described growing up in Philadelphia in the 1960s and how he was bused out to schools more than an hour away. "I know for sure that what put my life on a different trajectory was that someone intervened to give me an opportunity, to close that opportunity gap," he said.

VIDEO2:1002:10
Merck CEO on unrest over police brutality: George Floyd 'could be me'

That gap in education opportunity, which both Frazier and Johnson described, still exists.

Frazier called education the "great equalizer."

Johnson said, "Denial of access to education, which is a primary driver of accumulation of income and wealth, is a wealth transfer" away from black people.

Being aware of white privilege is something I also impress on my teenage daughter, who is white. She's made us so proud, sending around petitions on her social media and trying to make a difference for society and for her adopted sister. 

I don't just teach this to her because I have a black daughter.  As a white male in the majority, I need to try to be an example for others.  I need to be part of the conversation, as do others in the majority.  This is the only way the issue can begin to be solved. 

My wife and I are going to make sure our baby daughter has access to the best education possible. We're going to strive to bring amazing black role models into her life. However, we also know that just because she's going to have these advantages, she still will have to deal with a world that stacks the deck against minorities.

We, as a society, need to recognize this and fix it.  Our mission will be to provide our daughter with love and support, and to prepare her for the challenges that minorities face in America.

When we need help, we're going to ask for it from our black friends, the black community and our families. We hope our daughter, in time, will not have to endure the kind of racism that exists in the world today.

We hope a light emerges from the recent darkness, a catalyst for true change in this country. It's a change that is long overdue, and still needs to be realized more than a half century since the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But we're not waiting for change. We're going to be the change and do our best to prepare our daughter for what lies ahead – no matter what.

As I held my daughter in my arms Monday morning, after a weekend of seeing terrible images of a country divided, I told her I loved her and she's a ray of hope who someday can be part of the changes we hope to see in this world. But for now, I assured her that her job is to be the beautiful, charismatic, and healthy little girl that brings such joy to our lives.

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