Article 3- September 20

Personal Experience: KYEA Youth and Alumni Speak Out on Race Injustice and Inequality

Hearing people's stories is the best way to understand those who are different from us. We reached out to many youth and alumni of a variety of racial backgrounds to ask them two questions: 1) Give examples of how you have experienced injustice in your life or being treated different as a person of color, and 2) What needs to change when it comes to racial injustice? How do you think we can make a more equal society? Below are the responses and personal experiences submitted to us from those youth/alumni who wanted their voice to be heard.

Madison Short
Some of the things where I have experienced racial injustice is getting treating really differently for being one of the few black people in my small town. Like, I was very loved, but also, there was a whole bunch of stuff going on in the background that I didn’t know about until someone brought it to my attention. It’s very scary thinking of the fact that I can move to a bigger city and it could be even worse there than what it is in my small town. I’ve been called the N-word. It’s not a fun thing; like, I didn’t choose to be the color that I am. God chose that for me and every single African American.

Some of the things that I think need to change for racial injustice is that people need to realize that the black lives movement, and all the other movements that are happening right now, are not about politics. It is about basic human rights. The fact is that, nothing will change unless we make it change and unless we are heard, and it all depends on how this election goes. I’m being completely honest, but no one knows what the future holds. I hope that it’s good things, but we will see. I think that the people that are white supremacists don’t understand the hurt and anger in the races that this is affecting because they don’t have anything big like this happening to them. It’s so crazy that we are living through a civil rights movement right now, and we thought the only one would be what happened in the 60’s. Change needs to be made, and generation Z will be that change in the world that we need to see.

Curtis Meadows
I will just give you an example [of racial injustice]- as an African American walking in public with your hood on your head and somebody sees you wearing it, you might get stereotyped by them or pulled over by the cops for your skin color (thinking you stole it just because it’s a nice car).

[I believe that we can change things by] not discriminating based on identity, sex, or skin color. Everyone should have shelter, healthcare, education, food, and time to rest. People who have been pulled over from the police because of their skin color or beaten because of their color must speak up to people who want equal justice because, without justice, there’s is no livable future for people or the planet.

Ashlee Thao
As far as racial injustice goes, in recent experience, since our current President has been calling this coronavirus the "Chinese virus," there has been a lot of hate crimes towards Asians lately, even if they aren't Chinese. As long as they look even remotely Chinese, they get targeted.

Two examples of this happened to people around me, one I actually experienced and one that I learned later through secondhand knowledge.

The first experience was this: I went fishing with my family sometime in April or May since we could still socially distance outdoors. Me, my cousin who was with us at the time, and my brother decided that, instead of fishing, we'd get creative and make some canvas paintings while just sitting there at the lake.
While sitting there, we noticed a couple of other people, which my brother decided to make portraits of. I started using a rock as a paintbrush since I wanted to capture its texture. My cousin decided to paint the sunset. We were deep in our work when a car passed us by and the people yelled from inside it "Don't get the coronavirus" to the people next to us while pointing at us.

After that incident, we decided we'd pack up our things and go see how our parents were doing on catching fish. While we packed, that same car drove around the lake and passed us probably three more times before we left. It was a relief to go home.

The second experience happened to a former piano teacher of mine. She is Chinese, in her seventies now, and she's still recovering from this. While out shopping, she experienced a hit-and-run situation where someone tried to run over her, grocery cart and all, and then proceeded to take off. For the most part, she's able to teach piano again, but I think it will be more than just physical injury that needs healing.

If our nation chose its leaders with a little more diligence, I wonder if we would see things like this happening. I understand that people support our current president for certain policies, but, in order to curb these injustices, these leaders that our nation puts into power need to be held accountable to their words and actions. I don't know if that's happening.

I understand that there is already a system of checks and balances in place to determine our nation's policies. Maybe there needs to be more that the people can do to ensure that our leaders are actually the right leaders for this country, to which I'd say, there is a way. I hope to have our president voted out this coming election. That way, our family and friends around us can rest a little easier knowing that we are going to be okay without a hate crime targeted at us, due to a leader's words.

The other thing I might be able to share is in the workplace. It hasn't happened to me yet, but my mother and father have both experienced being passed up for a promotion multiple times in the workplace because of how "different" we look for being Asian. It is a less obvious sign of racism, but it has happened too many times to be dismissed. I understand that the work environment can be a competitive one, but not getting a promotion because of the color of your skin, or not getting a pay raise because of your descent, should not be an issue. Though I do not see a clear-cut solution, a more merit-based system for some companies might be feasible. Though it won't take care of everything, it might help curb some of this so that everyone has an equal opportunity for financial mobility in the workplace.

Christian Roberson
I have had so many experiences with racial injustice in my life, I could write a book. There are two times that stick out. They both came in my teens. The first came to me just recently. It’s probably the most painful because the people involved, I still know. My middle school was unique in that it was one of the few schools in the nation designated with a program for kids with autism, specifically Aspergers Syndrome (now the autism spectrum). Up until the second half of seventh grade, I was the only person of color. But, in that short time, I had heard the N-word used as a weapon multiple times.

The most memorable was me and a young white male rode the bus together. Outside of himself, myself, my older brother, the bus driver, and her aid were all black. I even hate to say this, but he, on more than one occasion deliberately used it to attack up. He thought it was all a game and even laughed at times when he said it. He would refuse to get off the bus and had to have his mother come out and get him off the bus. And none of us on the bus could do anything. It, to this day, hurts. It’s something you can’t forget. The other was at in alternative school for youth with disabilities. Multiple times, I was asked by the school if I was in a gang because my wardrobe has/had a lot of red and black. I was out with a girlfriend, and she was asked if I was in a gang from just glancing at me. Racism is very real and if there was enough space to even explain about college. Racism is a systemic problem.

As an activist, I would usually say burn the system down and leave it as my answer, but that’s not something that would explain change. Before I start, WE STILL NEED JUSTICE FOR BREONNA TAYLOR. Now, that said, it starts by voting. That’s the first stage for change. By voting out of office people holding on and creating laws that suppress marginalized identities, by bringing in more progressive candidates and getting term limits. Our lawmakers are old white men who don’t believe in moving forward and aren’t actually separating church and state.

The next is that we need to defund the police. This is not at all saying get rid of the police. It’s asking to reallocate a lot of the access money that the police departments have and move it to improving minority communities that can allow for better relationships between the police and people of color. There are so many things that need to be done, but the newsletter would look like a book if I listed everything. The last thing I will say is, it’s going to take everyone to make this change. Donating, protesting, educating, and listening are things anyone can do to bring the change our country desperately needs. Any of us with disabilities, even myself, can do all these things. Support your black brothers and sisters with disabilities. We need it now more than ever. People are gonna get uncomfortable, but you have to push past it to reach where we need to go. All lives can’t matter till black lives do. My final words are this.

Taylor Boykin
In my journey of life so far, I can say that I’ve not been treated differently because I am an African-American, but there have been several instances throughout my young adult life where I have been treated or looked at differently because of my disability. An example that comes to the forefront of my mind is my high school reunion that was last year. I was unable to go to it because the chosen location was not wheelchair accessible. Finding employment has been a very eye-opening experience as well.  My first job after college graduating in 2016 was an operation assistant at ATG. I was so excited to get the opportunity, but, in the process of doing that job, I found out what they really wanted, in a sense, was a project manager, and that was something, at that time, that I was not equipped to do skill level or work experience wise. I have only had a couple interactions with law-enforcement, and they have been normal.

As I look at the different ways that I would change or stop racial injustice, I would look at, first, police reform to change the way that police are trained and taught to interact with minorities and urban communities around the country. I also believe that the criminal justice system also needs to be reformed because there are far too many African Americans and other minorities that are in jail or prison for minor offenses or they had been wrongly accused. I believe the best way to create an equal society is through education, because education is what leads to more opportunities to change, not only an individual’s life or situation, but, I believe that is the best way to change society. Whether it is a traditional education, or, if an individual has a chance to go to a trade school or has an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, education is one of the best ways to create or start any change. My opinion is that, if we are to reach the other side of what the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting for, we must all remember to vote in November, and people of all races must continue to work together through the process even when the movement is no longer in the news cycle.