Bendigo's Mike Amor on the death of George Floyd, as a parent of an African-American boy

Mike, Addison and Tracy Amor visiting family in Bendigo some time ago. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
Mike, Addison and Tracy Amor visiting family in Bendigo some time ago. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

HOW does a parent of an African-American boy help their child feel safe and secure while a nation rages at the death of yet another black man at the hands of those who swore to serve and protect?

Former Bendigo Advertiser journalist Mike Amor is among the fathers asking themselves just that following the death of George Floyd.

"When you have a black son, in particular, you have to explain to him that the people in charge of protecting you could also hurt you," Amor said.

"Whenever you come in contact with police, you need to obey whatever they do.

"You don't want them to panic."

He was speaking about police in America, where his 12-year-old son Addison and wife Tracy were born.

"One of the reasons we're back in Australia is because I fundamentally believe he [Addison] is much safer here," Amor said.

Policing was one of the factors the family considered when making the move.

"The police force here... you can't even compare it," Amor said.

He said the danger posed by police for black people in America was "undeniable".

"Predominantly police in America are good, but they are heavy-handed in particular to black people," Amor said.

He said he and his wife tried to shield their son from as much distressing news as possible.

Addison learned about Mr Floyd's death as a result of social media.

Amor said: "He came down to my wife with the video, in tears, saying, 'How can someone do this to this man?'"

Mr Floyd repeatedly told police "I can't breathe" as he lay dying, pinned to the ground by the neck by a white officer.

Those were the same words Eric Garner said before he died in a police chokehold, six years earlier.

Amor said variations of what the world saw happen to Mr Floyd had been happening to black people in America - men especially - for generations.

What had changed was the ability to record evidence.

"Police can no longer use the excuse he was resisting arrest, because people are capturing what actually happened," Amor said.

He said his son didn't understand why people would do this to another human because of the colour of their skin.

"It's a very hard thing to explain to a 12-year-old," Amor said.

"It's a reality and it's his reality. We try to explain it as best and as suitably as we can.

"I don't know that we're getting it right, but we're doing our best."

Amor knew his family wasn't alone in having those discussions.

"These are the conversations families with black children are having right now," he said.

"Conversations families with black children, especially sons, have had forever in America."

He said it didn't excuse the rioting, violence or destruction taking place as a result of Mr Floyd's death, but went some way to explaining the anger fuelling it.

"It breaks my heart to see what's happening over there," Amor said.

His family was "deeply disturbed" by what it had seen.

Amor was concerned some people were blaming black people for the unrest.

"Just because there is violence doesn't mean the whole of what is happening is the fault of African-Americans," he said.

Amor did not believe the protests would change anything.

Tensions had flared and subdued before as history repeated itself, without seeming to have sparked meaningful progress.

"This is not a Donald Trump issue. This is an American issue. How Donald Trump is handling it is another story," Amor said.

He and his family are just doing their best to get through it all.

Amor and his wife adopted Addison within hours of his birth. They are both white.

"I am learning what it's like to be black through his eyes," Amor said.

He had seen his son's confusion, anger and hurt as to why people had treated him poorly based on the colour of his skin.

Moving to Australia had not meant moving away from racism.

"Australia is not perfect. We've got our own race issues," Amor said.

The news presenter said he did not have a lot of interaction with minorities, growing up.

In that respect, Amor said: "I was ignorant. I was dumb. And probably unprepared for what I'd experience."

This story 'The people in charge of protecting you could also hurt you' - A parent's heartbreak first appeared on Bendigo Advertiser.