Tyler Perry on explaining racism to his 5-year-old: 'It is my duty to prepare him'

In a new essay, the 50-year-old media mogul opens up about “the harsh reality” that he has to prepare his son for as a Black male in America.
Today - Season 66
Tyler Perry talks racism and Black parenthood in a new essay for People magazine.Mike Smith / NBC
/ Source: TODAY

In a new cover essay for People magazine, filmmaker and father Tyler Perry opens up about the difficult discussion about race that he’s preparing to have with his young son.

"The level of racism and brutality that George Floyd faced is something that we as Black people know all too well," the 50-year-old wrote. "When I saw that video, I had so many raw, guttural emotions. I felt for him and his family. I felt for all of us as Black people. I felt for my 5-year-old son."

Perry and his partner Gelila Bekele welcomed Aman, their first child together, in 2014. Now, the media mogul is struggling to find the right moment to teach Aman the context and perspective Perry feels he needs as a Black male in America.

"Studying the joy and innocence in his beautiful brown face and wondering how long can this innocence last, how long can I protect him from the cruelness of this world, how long can he hold on to that same innocence that allows him to describe all of his friends at school to me but never mention them by race," he began. "It’s a beautiful thing, but I know with every passing day, this is fleeting. Every time I look at him, my heart aches for this tough conversation about his brown skin that is coming."

But Perry said he knows he can't avoid the discussion much longer.

"Looking at his young face, I often ask myself how to broach this conversation: How will I explain that even though Mr. Rogers once said, 'Look for the helpers,' sometimes those very helpers will judge his skin before they recognize his humanity," the actor and director wrote.

"I know that as his father, a Black man in America, it is my duty to prepare him for the harsh reality that awaits him outside of the watchful eyes of his loving parents. It will be a hard, heartbreaking conversation, but one that I must have and will have soon," he continued.

"I will explain to him that because we are only 12 to 14% of the population, this fight will continue to be a long and arduous one, but I will tell him with pride to never give up," Perry stressed. "I will tell him that progress is made in small steps, and even if you get exhausted to fight on, because there are always signs of daybreak before the morning comes."

Perry referenced slaves seeing their own children freed as a previous sign of "daybreak." He noted that he can drink from any water fountain without worry whereas his parents were barred from "white-only" fountains.

And now, in the wake of George Floyd's death, Perry said he sees a "galvanization of all races coming together to peacefully protest."

"It is my hope that we continue these hard conversations out of respective corners to talk to each other, but most of all to hear each other so that this mourning in America will give way to morning in America," he added.