Barrett, a mother of seven children, including two who are Black, told the committee she saw video of then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck before the Black man died in May. The final moments of Floyd's life, first captured on cell phone, set off a wave of protests that has since roiled the country and sparked a racial reckoning that has included calls for police reform.
"As you might imagine, given that I have two Black children, that was very, very personal for my family," Barrett told Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois when asked what impact the video had on her. "Jesse was with the boys on a camping trip in South Dakota. So I was there, and my 17-year-old daughter Vivian, who's adopted from Haiti, all of this was erupting. It was very difficult for her. We wept together in my room."
She also said the killing of Floyd was difficult for her 10-year-old daughter Juliet and that she tried to explain it to her children.
"I mean, my children to this point in their lives had the benefit of growing up in a cocoon where they have not yet experienced hatred or violence," she said. "And for Vivian, you know, to understand there would be a risk to her brother or the son she might have one day of that kind of brutality has been an ongoing conversation. It's a difficult one for us like it is for all Americans all over the country."
She also said it's an uncontroversial and obvious statement that "racism persists in our country," but would not comment on how to address the issue because as a judge she cannot comment on a policy issues.
"As to putting my finger on the nature of the problem, you know, whether, as you say, it's just outright or systemic racism or how to tackle the issue of making it better, those things, you know, are policy questions," she said. "They're hotly contested policy questions that have been in the news and discussed all summer. So while, as I did share in my personal experience, I'm very happy to discuss the reaction our family had to the George Floyd video giving broader statements or making broader diagnoses about the problem of racism is kind of beyond what I'm capable of doing as a judge."