Kids talk to Hoda about their experiences with racism: 'Why? We're all the same'
The worldwide protests in the wake of George Floyd's death have included many children joining their parents to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality.
Hoda Kotb spoke to a group of five kids in a virtual conversation on TODAY Monday about what the protests have meant to them and what we can do to help build a better future.
Her panel included Rosalie, 11; a trio of multiracial seventh grade friends in Logan, Josh and Aidan; and a 15-year-old activist named Marley, who campaigned to get thousands of books about black girls into schools.
Hoda asked what their reaction has been to seeing the mass protests across the country since Floyd's death on May 25.
"The moment that we're living in is kind of frustrating because it feels as though it's an attack on people that look like me, which is really scary and disappointing," Marley said.
"I feel endangered, like I'm being hunted because I'm different, and I find that just unacceptable," Aidan said.
Aidan explained how his parents have taught him that when he's out in public, he needs to be careful, know his rights and "never disrespect a police officer."
There are times when he has felt intimidated when he's out in public because he is black.
"Like, when I was walking my dog Phineas, I felt like it was night, so I didn't want anybody coming to me like, 'Oh, he's an African American boy at night. He must be doing something bad,'" Aidan said.
"It's, like, 'Why?' We're all the same," he added.
His comments echoed those of one of his peers, 12-year-old gospel singer Keedron Bryant, who spoke on TODAY last week about his viral song, "I Just Want to Live."
"I felt sad that I have to sing that because it's unfair that we can't go out and, like the song says, live,'' Bryant told Hoda. "I just want to live. We can't go out and enjoy life and not be afraid, fear that something is going to happen to us, so it was really sad to have that feeling."
Logan explained how his father tried to convey to him the frustration that has fueled many of the protests. Floyd, 46, died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground during an arrest outside a grocery store.
"Yesterday, my dad said, 'You don't know what it's like to be black until you walk a mile in my shoes,''' Logan said.
"What he means by that is you don't know what it's like to see people clenching their bags when you're walking down the street. He says it happens every day."
Marley shared how her first experienced racial differences and inequality when she was in elementary school and other students had issues with her hair.
"A lot of the kids at school would say that it was taking up too much space, and they wanted me to sit in the back, or that it was dirty,'' she said. "And these things were super frustrating because I felt like it was completely out of my control. This is how my hair looks, and I would never say that to somebody else."
Rosalie, who is white, talked about her regrets about not speaking up when she witnessed an upsetting scene at summer camp.
"I saw some people from a different cabin. They were saying how they didn't want to play with someone because of their race," she said. "I didn't really say anything to them at the time, but I talked to my counselors, and sometimes I kind of regret not saying anything, but I also at the same time don't because I could have made things worse."
Marley offered her advice for children grappling with whether they should speak up in a situation like Rosalie encountered.
"I think Rosalie did a great job in knowing that, 'Oh, I don't know 100% enough to just go in and try and stop something, but I can ask an adult who may know more than me,''' Marley said.
Marley added that simply acknowledging racism can be an important early step for kids.
"I think people need to understand that racism exists," she said. "And that we need to understand that it's OK to be black, it's OK to be white, it's OK to be Pacific islander. And all of these differences is what, in fact, makes this country beautiful and amazing, and makes us the people that we are."