As the events of last summer unfolded, with the murder of George Floyd and so many others, I was struck by a sense of impotence. What could I do to make a difference? Could anyone make a difference? I am a professor at Ohio State and a Couple and Family Therapist. I was intellectually aware of the many inequalities, inequities and disparities that have been created by this thing we call “race,” but this past summer I became much more emotionally aware of the toll that structural racism is taking on the Black community and other communities of color in the US.
As I sat with this sense of impotence and rage, I wondered what I had to give. I don’t think of myself as a protester, and I didn’t think that would provide a genuine way for me to make a difference. I thought about what I have to offer. I’m a researcher, but academic research, as much as I love it, doesn’t always have a big impact, at least not immediately. I am also an artist. I have been working with Michael Cooley, at his studios (https://cooleystudios.com) part-time for about 5 years and have been learning about the art of oil painting. I decided that one thing I could do that would make a difference is do some sort of art piece that might influence its viewers to think about their behaviors and actions.
As I pondered this, I came to a piece that depicted Black children, including George Floyd as a child and any other person that had been killed by police. Although there were many people named in the media last summer, there were not many for whom there were pictures of them as children. The other child that I was able to find on-line was Tamir Rice. He was killed by police at the age of 12 because he had a fake gun. I also found pictures of Barack Obama as a child, and other pictures of “anonymous” children on-line.
My hope in creating and displaying this piece is for people, mostly White people, to understand that as they are complicit in structural racism in this country, they are limiting the potential of other citizens in the country. Children are born with potential. What do we gain by limiting that potential, and how can it possibly be worth it?
By Suzanne Bartle-Haring