It was a running joke between Jamie Lee Hurtt and her 10-year-old daughter, Azariah, that Hurtt would become TikTok famous and have more followers than her daughter. Neither of them ever expected they would end up going viral together, or like this.
During the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent quarantine, Hurtt, like many parents, found herself dabbling on the social media app TikTok. She has mostly posted videos of her learning popular dances, alone or with her children and fiancé, Joseph Mckinzie.
Hurtt and Mckinzie manage a full and blended house in El Dorado Hills, California, that includes Azariah, Mckinzie's daughters, Leilani, 12, and Isabella, 10, and the couple's two sons together, Joseph Jr., 2, and Jeremiah, 3 months.
They are a racially blended family, too: Hurtt is white, and Mckinzie's father was black and his mother was white. Azariah's father, who is no longer in her life, was black as well.
This week, Hurtt posted something different: a snippet of a personal and raw moment with her daughter. Azariah had asked her parents about news reports she had seen. She wanted to know why the National Guard was there and why some of their favorite restaurants were boarded up to prevent looting.
"We looked at each other like, 'I think it's time to have a conversation with her,'" Hurtt told TODAY Parents.
When Hurtt and Mckinzie told Azariah about George Floyd's murder and the ensuing unrest, the girl broke down.
"I could die from the color of my skin," she said through tears, in a moment Hurtt caught on video.
Mckinzie, visibly distressed and shaking his head, replies, "I'm sorry," before embracing his stepdaughter in a hug.
"It's sad that we even have to have the conversation with her, and it's not like she's naive... but she started bawling," said Hurtt. "She's not a very emotional person at all, so it killed us to see her crying."
Hurtt initially took the video because she wanted to capture the moment for her family, she told TODAY Parents. "That moment wasn't a TikTok. It wasn't for anybody but our own household," she said. "I just wanted to have the memory of that moment for us, for our family."
She didn't think to post the video on TikTok, she said, until early the next morning when she was up feeding her infant alone and scrolling through the app. After watching a similar video that made her cry, Hurtt was inspired to add the video to her page in the hopes of showing how racism affects children like her daughter.
In a matter of hours, the video went viral. It now has 1.2 million likes and 24,000 comments.
"We are fighting for you!!! I PROMISE YOU," wrote TikTok user Brittany Leigh.
"This beautiful girl made my heart hurt. Sending prayers and good vibes to you," wrote Naya Smith.
"I just had the same talk with my 10-year old daughter," wrote Nichole Mcdonald. "That she could die because of the color of her skin. A child should never, ever, ever have to say this."
"Look how many people you've touched," Hurtt told Azariah. She and her daughter have been reading every comment together. It has helped Azariah to see that other people share her feelings, but the pain is still raw for them both, Hurtt said.
"How do we tell our children that everything is going to be OK and that she'll be treated like everyone else? You just can't."