SALEM, Va. – George Floyd’s death struck a raw nerve for many Americans, including Iris Park.
“I was shocked and devastated when I saw his death,” Park said. “Anger, sadness, a lot of different emotions. I was thinking of my son, as well.”
Park took the opportunity to sit down with her six-year-old son, and told him America may treat him differently because of his skin tone.
“I did not sugarcoat anything," Park said. "My husband and I were very honest with him. This is how it is, and we want him to understand. We want him to be safe.”
Park recorded her son’s thoughts about Floyd and posted it to her Facebook page. The video has been viewed more than 1,000 times. Park, who is a board member with the Salem Historical Society, then got the idea to bring the conversation to a wider scale.
Park is planning an event later this month with both the Salem Historical Society and Roanoke’s Harrison Museum of African-American Culture.
Salem Historical Society Executive Director Fran Ferguson said she wholeheartedly supports Park’s vision.
“History tells us that things are not always good or always bad, but they can be changed," said Ferguson.
Ferguson said the conversation of separate Americas is reminiscent of the display at the Salem Museum featuring the city’s two former segregated high schools. Carver High School was all-black, while Andrew Lewis High School was all-white.
“Carver is just a few blocks from Andrew Lewis,” Ferguson said. “Yet, museum visitors who went Andrew Lewis say to us, ‘I just assumed it was just like what the white students had.’ It was separate, but obviously not equal.”
Park hopes this time will spur thousands of parent-child talks that will help the Roanoke Valley become a better place for her son’s generation.
“It’s not just an adult problem. It starts with your child," Park said. "They are the roots.”