The first part of Oprah’s OWN Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here that aired on Tuesday night featured so many moving conversations between Black artists, journalists, activists, and politicians. One of those was between the host and actor David Oyelowo, who spoke tearfully about why watching police officers kill George Floyd felt different from the countless other instances of violence against Black people. He said he frankly doesn’t know how to discuss the issue with his children anymore.
“I have spent so much of the last two weeks crying,” Oyelowo said. “And one of the moments when it began was when I went to speak to my son, and I didn’t have the words, because George Floyd wasn’t resisting arrest. So, it’s not like saying to my son, put your hands on the dash, don’t be confrontational.”
The British actor, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, has three sons and one daughter with his wife Jessica. Their eldest, model Asher Oyelowo, just graduated from high school this spring.
“Those conversations are already emasculating, to basically say, ‘Forget about justice in an interaction with the police. Come home alive,’” Oyelowo told Oprah about “the talk” he has had with his kids.
“And for everybody who’s watching who is not Black, that is the conversation, that is the talk that every Black parent has had to have with their children, particularly their sons,” Oprah explained.
Oyelowo had posted an Instagram video about his reaction to Floyd’s death last week, expressing more about why Floyd’s death in particular was hitting him so hard. He shared stories of the racist treatment his Nigerian father, Stephen, received in the U.K. when he moved there in the ’60s. People threw coffee in his face, spat on him, and refused to rent him a home.
“He would tell me these stories, and they felt like something relegated to the past, something that we had moved on from,” he said. “I stepped into a future that I determined was going to be different.”
Oyelowo, too, received hateful treatment as an actor in his home country. Still, he had thought things were changing for his sons, he said.
“The thing that has really brutalized me this week has been watching my eldest son, who graduated last week,” he said in the video. “I’ll be honest with you, I was walking past his bedroom, and I heard sobbing, and I went in to see my son, and he was broken because he didn’t understand the world he had graduated into, and I couldn’t give him any comfort. … We are not safe. … I want a world where my son doesn’t have to face those things.”
The video is just over eight minutes long, which Oyelowo did on purpose to demonstrate that the eight minutes and 46 seconds that Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck was a really long time.
“I posted [the video] because I had made the mistake of thinking that things would be different for my son. I say mistake because I had watched things progress in some ways. And then the knee on the neck is so symbolic of so much. It’s something I didn’t realize that I had internalized in a way that makes it difficult for me to function.”
Part 2 of Oprah’s special airs on Wednesday night on OWN and other Discovery networks such as Discovery, Food Network, Cooking Channel, HGTV, as well as on streaming services. You can watch part 1 on OWN now.
When it’s time to turn off the screens and take a break from the news, read these children’s books by Black authors and illustrators.
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