In light of nationwide protests after George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis police department, Nick Cannon has opened up about his kids' perception of law enforcement, saying that they "fear police."
Cannon has three children: nine-year-old twins, daughter Monroe and son Moroccan Scott with his ex-wife Mariah Carey, and three-year-old son Golden with model Brittany Bell.
In an interview with Access Hollywood, Cannon broke down a conversation he says many black parents have with their children, one he calls the "stay alive talk."
"I say this in all sincerity," 39-year-old Cannon began. "I even got some pushback for this, which I don't care what people think about me or what they say about me, but I made a statement that my children fear police. And it's a real statement."
The father continued: "I try to teach fearlessness. I try to teach that you have a power within you that you need to fear nothing. But when they see the energy of law enforcement, it's, 'Uh, oh, here comes the police!' Or that mindset of, 'Sit up straight! Don't talk! Keep your hands where they can see them!' These are things that I'm talking to a three-year-old about or a nine-year-old about and they bring those questions to me."
The actor and activist said that although one of his children once aspired to become a cop, that notion has since disappeared.
"There was an idea where one wanted to be a police officer, 'Aw man, I want to help and protect and serve people!'" he explained. "It has definitely changed where they perpetuate fear, man. It's something that, it's hurtful to have those conversations with your children but you want to protect them at the end of the day."
Cannon said that conversations about policing between parents and their children is a part of black culture—and that his parents had the same talks with him when he was young. Cannon then described his family's history of distrust with law enforcement.
"I've never called the police in my life because our family was afraid to call the police," Cannon said. "And that was from a child growing up going, 'Uh oh, the police showed up!' It wasn't about safety. Someone was in trouble. Someone's gonna go to jail because the police were called. When we see the police in our neighborhood, it's never been a good experience."
Cannon—who earned his degree in Criminology from Howard University last month—believes it's time to reconstruct how law enforcement works and that police should work in the communities in which they live.
"I'm an abolitionist," Cannon said. "We gotta get rid of law enforcement all together and start over. Get rid of the word 'policing.' How about we call them peace officers? How about we put together some psychological evaluations of the people that we put in charge of protecting and serving us? It needs to be much more than just a high school degree and an urge to have a badge and a gun."
He added: "Let's empower these individuals who want to be in law enforcement with the right surroundings, with clarity, with spiritual advisers, with people who they can rely on daily that can hold them accountable when they are in these streets protecting and serving."
Despite his activism in the streets, Cannon said he's felt hesitant to speak to the press lately.
"One of the reasons I've been reluctant to do interviews is because it's not about me, it's about being a part of a movement that's been going on for years," he said. "Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, we've been on these frontlines walking, marching, protesting and quite frankly we're tired of it."
Speaking on the death of Floyd, Cannon admitted that he's often driven to tears.
"To see a white man kneeling on the neck of a black man, as he takes his last breath, as the white man has his hands in his pocket so cavalier, in a crisis," he said. "We now normalize trauma. We see public lynchings daily, on a cycle, on a feed. It is something we can't normalize. And it hurts my heart. I cry at night. It's hard to even wake up everyday knowing we need to get back into this fight. But we're gonna do it. I'm ready to put my life on the line for this."