And it’s highlighted the need many have to simply stand up and be heard in the wake of it all — including country music star Thomas Rhett and his wife, Lauren Akins.
Over the weekend, the pair took to social media to speak out both as concerned citizens and worried parents.
“As the father of a black daughter and also two white daughters- I have struggled with what to say today,” the “Life Changes” singer wrote in a post on Instagram. “We have navigated forms of racism directly and while there is mostly overwhelming support and love for our family, sometimes there is just the opposite. Because of that fear, it can be a lot easier to choose silence, but today I’m choosing to speak.”
Rhett and Akins, who married in 2012, adopted daughter Willa, now 4, from Uganda in 2017, and they welcomed their second child, daughter Ada, later that same year. In February of this year, Akins gave birth to their third daughter, Lennon.
And while Rhett explained he and his wife have had to navigate racism since starting their family, he also added his own experience with it is completely different from the experience black Americans face every day.
“I have no clue what it feels like to be profiled by authorities, treated negatively or have my life threatened because of the color of my skin,” he wrote. “When I witnessed the horrific murder of George and think about the mistreatment of other black men and women in America, I am heartbroken and angry. I get scared when I think about my daughters and what kind of world they will be growing up in and how my JOB as a father is to show them how to lead with love in the face of hate. To know their worth and value as not only women but human beings.”
The 30-year-old told his fans and followers he doesn’t “believe in hate,” but he’s not blind to it.
“What happened to George was pure hate,” he wrote. “We are all created by the same God. I pray for a change in heart of those hearts who have been overcome by hatred and hardened. I pray for a deeper understanding for myself and awareness of the experience of mistreatment that those of another skin color go through. I pray for the families of those who have lost their lives to violence or experienced trauma at the hand of racial oppression and injustice.”
However, he stressed prayer wasn’t the only action needed.
“We each have to be part of the solution and we have to continue to educate ourselves, continue to support both financially and with service those organizations doing good work in our communities to overcome injustice and hatred in our country.”
Akins feels much the same as her husband, but in a post of her own, the 30-year-old mother admitted she struggled finding her voice — at first.
“I have been nervous to post anything in the past and even now because of how some people believe that I as a white mother am undeserving or incapable of raising a black daughter,” she wrote. “I believe that shaming comes from people who choose to see only my white skin and her brown skin and refuse to see our hearts and love for each other. That shaming has created such anxiety in me that I am afraid to share my heart on social media. But as her mother, I want her to be VERY sure that I am HER mother who stands up not only for her, but for every single person who shares her beautiful brown skin.”
Akins first met Willa while volunteering in Uganda in 2016, and she connected with the then-infant immediately. She recently told singer and talk show host Kelly Clarkson that, “The second I touched her, it was electric. I was like, ‘Oh, this little girl has just taken my heart.’”
And now she wants to show Willa she has her back, too.
“I want to be her mother who raises her to know what it means to have brown skin and to be proud of it,” Akins continued. “I want to be her mother who doesn’t listen to the shaming of skin colors but instead listens to the Spirit of God who knitted every skin color together in their mother’s womb for His glory. Because the truth is: I AM HER mother who FIGHTS for her. I am her mother who celebrates not only WHO she and her two sisters are, but WHOSE they are and exactly who God created them to be.”
She went on to add she believes she’d be “disobedient to God” if she didn’t speak out.
“I believe if I stay silent I am betraying my brothers and sisters,” she wrote. “I believe if I stay silent I am betraying my daughter. I believe if I stay silent I am betraying the heart of God. Don’t stay silent. Fight. Use the most powerful weapon of all: love.”
That was the heart of her husband’s message, too, which closed with this: “So if there is any question on where I stand let me be clear- I stand with you, I stand with George and his family and all those who have faced racism. I stand with my wife and my daughters. We will be fighting this fight for the rest of our lives. Rest In Peace, George. We are not letting this go.”