Kids React to Terence Crutcher's Killing & Their Questions Deserve Answers

Students at a Tulsa Oklahoma charter school react to Terence Crutcher's death
The death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed man who was shot next to his disabled car -- while he held his hands in the air -- by Tulsa police in Oklahoma, has struck a chord with so many in this country. In this sea of anger and sadness, the charter school that one of Crutcher's daughters reportedly attends has decided to take action by encouraging honest dialogue. Rebecca Lee is a sixth-grade teacher whose heartfelt Facebook post about her students' reactions to Crutcher's murder -- and their questions about race -- is a must read.


Rebecca was a part of a series of small group discussions with students in the fifth through eighth grades at KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory that encouraged discussion and allowed students' voices to be heard.

"I want to share what I experienced with the kids today, because I am convinced that if you can put yourself in the shoes of a child of color in Tulsa right now, you will have a clearer understanding of the crisis we're facing and why we say black lives matter," Lee writes on Facebook. She shares that her young students have questions...

Why did they have to kill him? Why were they afraid of him? Why does [Crutcher's daughter] have to live life without a father? What will she do at father daughter dances? Who will walk her down the aisle? Why did no one help him after he was shot? Hasn't this happened before? Can we write her cards? Can we protest?

As the questions roll, so do the tears. Students cry softly as they speak. Others weep openly. I watch 10-year-olds pass tissues to each other, to me, to our principal as he joins our circle. One girl closes our group by sharing: 'I wish white people could give us a chance. We can all come together and get along. We can all be united.'

"Let me tell you, these 10-year-olds are more articulate about this than I am," this teacher shares.

"The tragedy lives and breathes among them. It could have been their father."

More from CafeMom: Police Kill Another Unarmed Black Man & We Need to Demand Justice -- Now

As Rebecca says, "I share this story because I spent the last two years teaching kids that we write to interact with and understand the world, that our voices matter and that our voices deserve to be heard."

She also adds:

A few quiet words are whispered about sadness and unfairness, but the rest of the time is spent wiping eyes and hugging one another. It becomes clear that no one else is in a place to speak. I give them the space to process silently. Then I tell them, 'We have different skin colors. I love you. You matter. You are worthy. You are human. You are valuable.' Shoulders shake harder around the circle. I realize that this is the first time all year I have affirmed my love for them.

Rebecca's heartfelt post is a reminder to us that our children are listening, they are watching -- and they have a reaction to current events. It's oftentimes hard for them to put into words how they feel, or know it's okay to even ask questions in the first place.

All of us have our own opinions about why Terence Crutcher died, why some officers said he looked like "a bad dude" when he was just a human whose car broke down, or what he could've done to "prevent" being shot to death ...

I commend this school for giving students the opportunity to speak what's on their hearts, have vulnerable moments with other classmates -- including those who know Crutcher's daughter -- and have awesome teachers like Lee reiterate how much they matter.

More from CafeMom: Talking to Kids About Race: 9 Tips for Moms

Being a mother of two boys, I often imagine the talks I will sadly need to have with them once they're older -- and I hate thinking about it.  I want my children to be able to voice their emotions and concerns and listen to their peers and how they feel.

Just as our kids learn about history, they should be given the opportunity to discuss current events and things happening in the society around them.

'What made him "a big bad dude?"' a boy asks. 'Was it his height? His size--' I look at the boys in my circle, all former students of mine. They have grown inches since their first day in my class. Their voices have deepened. Their shoulders broadened. They all nod their heads in agreement at the student's last guess-- 'The color of his skin?'

Race and social issues can be a hard pill to swallow for anyone. And rather than close ourselves off to this kind of dialogue -- because we don't think it's a big deal, or because what someone else has experienced doesn't directly affect us -- it's great to hear teachers and schools aren't turning away.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your Facebook share. Hopefully it will resonate with others (it's been shared over 67,000 times as of right now), and inspire honest dialogue and for us to remember to "love and love hard."



Image via Tulsa Police Department/ABC News; Rebecca Lee/Facebook

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