As the mother of a black journalist, Betty Jo Melvin is in a challenging position that not many people can relate to. She's watched her son, TODAY co-host Craig Melvin, cover the protests over George Floyd's death on live television, and it worries her, she told Craig's wife, Lindsay Czarniak.
In a recent conversation that Czarniak posted on her Instagram, Melvin shared her experience knowing Craig's in an environment that's proven dangerous for journalists, especially journalists of color. A recent video showed Craig surrounded by panicked protestors with what sounded like fireworks in the background.
Starting the dialogue, Czarniak — who shares a son, Delano, 6, and a daughter, Sybil, 3, with Craig — explained that "it's not easy" to watch her husband cover the protests.
Melvin chimed in: "As a mother, I was nervous, and I was worried because I got two things here. Craig's a journalist, but he's also a black male, and the world sees him as a black male."
"(Him) being in the middle of protests, peaceful or whatever, I was worried, especially when I started to hear certain sounds because I'm listening for sounds," she said. "I'm looking to see who's around him. As a black mother, we're always worried about our sons."
Melvin went on to recall her own childhood in the 1960s in Lexington County, South Carolina. She said she wasn't allowed to sit in the front of buses and that her school got books and desks only when "white schools were finished" with them.
"I walked to school as children would spit out of the windows on the bus," she said. "We were taught how to act a certain way and what not to do to provoke anybody. That's how I grew up. I also grew up with the KKK ... and I grew up when the bathrooms said 'Blacks only' and 'Whites only.'"
Melvin added that she was taught to "respect policemen."
"You stay in your place, and you had a place," she continued. "Was I afraid of the police? Probably. I didn't see police like children see police now, (that) they're there to help you. I didn't see police like that as a black child."
She also shared some insight into what it's like to raise black sons. Craig has two brothers, one younger and one older.
"Even in this world, they have to compete a little bit harder," Melvin explained. "They can't do the same things and get the same results as someone that has the same qualifications that they have, if he's white or someone else. So you teach your children from when they're younger that I need you to be more. You have to push them hard."
Earlier in the conversation, Melvin and Czarniak also looked back on the moment that Melvin found out her son's then-girlfriend was white.
"He had to tell me that you were white,” Melvin laughed. “I don’t even know how it came up. Y’all had been dating a while and it came up!”
“I told him that love has no color, that your skin color doesn’t matter, as long as you loved him and he loved you,” she continued. “The color of your skin has nothing to do with who you are on the inside.”