Listening to America’s Racial Uprising

Violence is not the ultimate answer but neither is a dismissal of pain

Sam Heath
6 min readNov 17, 2020


Protestors stand before a burning Third Police Precinct building in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd.
Minneapolis’ Third Police Precinct after the death of George Floyd. Photo Stephen Maturen / Getty Images.

There is a parallel between parenting and protest.

I do not mean that the parents of the world don weapons, shields, and signs and head out to maintain familial peace, leading to cries for “law and order.” We are not at war against our children.

I mean that our goal as parents is similar to what the goal should be when trying to understand and talk about the protests and riots of the Black Lives Matter movement.

This movement is large — the largest movement in US history, in fact. This movement is not something we can ignore.

And this movement is not something we can afford to misunderstand.

Imagine a scene you have likely witnessed or endured: A child in a public place, say, a grocery store. Said child asks for something, the parent does not grant it, and the child loses it. There’s kicking and screaming and crying, all out tantrum-mess chaos. Most parental minds immediately go to control mode in order to get the kid to calm down RIGHT NOW. While this parental response is completely understandable, and might remedy the issue for the short term, it completely misses the long term concern and goes straight for behavior modification — stop the screaming, stop the riot.

I have three kids five and under, so my wife and I have witnessed many tantrums and will suffer through many more, but I have recently shifted my goal in those meltdown moments. I used to focus on the immediate behavior and plead, “Stop crying” or “You can’t do that in public” or “That’s never going to get you anything.”

A black and white illustration of a mother wagging her finger while scolding a child.
Image from

All of those reactions drill down on the moment, and I miss the motive. What motivated my kid to lose her ever-loving mind when I said she had to stop licking the refrigerator? Why was licking the refrigerator so important?

Since the pandemic began, I have started to work to understand why my child threw the tantrum or what the need was that my child actually had, what my child was actually



Sam Heath

Husband, father, teacher, Charlottesville resident. Speak truth to power.