The Turton family is the embodiment of the American Dream.
Derrick, Vanessa, their son Derrick Jr., and their daughter Arielle live in a gated community in an elegant home. Yet mom and dad live with an undercurrent of fear.
“I look at my kids and I’m scared, scared, terrified because it scares me to think that people will look at my son and think that he’s something else or a threat,” Vanessa Turton said.
“My son is a very mild mannered, mellow young man, but I’m afraid a police officer won’t see that, they’ll see his hair and his hoodie and it could turn into something else.”
The George Floyd tragedy in Minnesota crystalized their worries about their kids having an encounter with a rogue cop.
“Your job is to enforce the law, your job is not to murder people,” said Derrick Turton, referring to the officer in Minneapolis who killed Floyd.
For African-American families, this is a visceral moment in history.
“It took the whole world protesting to get an arrest and then more protesting to get the other three officers arrested,” Derrick Turton said.
They’re watching a worldwide outcry against mistreatment at the hands of police, something people of color experience all too often.
“You see a lot of instances where people do everything that they’re supposed to do and somehow still don’t make it home safe to their families and a lot of those kids are my kid’s age,” Derrick Turton said.
His son is 19 years old.
“I don’t wanna be that moment, I don’t wanna be that instance on Twitter, on Instagram or Facebook that’s getting shared, going viral for a negative reason,” Derrick, Jr. said.
“What’s most important is to get home safe so just try to be as compliant as you possibly can,” said Derrick Sr.
It’s known as “The Conversation,” when black parents talk to their kids about how to behave around police officers.
“Yes sir, no sir, whatever questions they have,” Jr. is saying to his dad as they discuss the issue.
Young Derrick got pulled over once for speeding, and used his training.
“My parents taught me to comply so it’s like when I get pulled over by the time they’re getting out of the car, I have my license, my paperwork on the roof, my hands are out the window,” Derrick explained.
So here’s one of the takeaways people will hopefully get from the Turton family: that none of us who aren’t black can ever know what it feels like to be instantly judged by other people, subconsciously or overtly, simply because of the color of our skin.
“It’s difficult to process,” Vanessa Turton said.
Vanessa Turton is a retired firefighter, she and her husband have cops in the family, so they’re raising their kids to respect, not disrespect, police.
“And so I know first hand that there are really really great cops out there it’s the bad apples that they need to weed out,” Vanessa Turton said.
“There’s trust issues because when things do happen, people feel like the good cops are not taking a stand against the bad ones,” Derrick Turton said.
That’s why as a family, the Turton’s support the peaceful protests.
“You know change comes from discomfort, change comes from having hard conversation, change comes sometimes, taking a stand,” Derrick Turton said.
Change also comes from understanding the experiences of our neighbors.