It’s time to listen. Evansville Living has and always will be a platform to celebrate the good things about our city, but right now the best use of our platform is to amplify the voices that can speak directly to the black experience in our country, city, and community. Over the coming days, we will be giving our platform over to several community members who will share their experiences so that we can learn and grow together. Our role, and what we’re also asking of you, is simply to listen.
I attended a Memorial and Mater Dei football game with a friend of mine during our freshman year of high school. We were the only people of color there. I remember having fun as we hung out with some students from Memorial, but toward the end of the game, they told us we were different from what they thought and were not like everyone else who attended Bosse.
What did those students mean by that? How were we different? One of them proceeded to say they had heard our school was just all black people and that it was ghetto and dangerous. I truly couldn’t believe that was how they viewed and judged us initially. How many more people felt the same way these students did? Here I am, at 31 years old, and still having to deal with the same type of judgement. I could go on and on about my stories of slurs, mistreatment, and discrimination I’ve experienced. Why and how does someone’s skin color change how you view and treat a person?
I truly feel like a shift is happening right now, and everyone is finally starting to question everyday racism and seek solutions. We need to engage in conversations, educate each other, speak up, and do our part in creating racial equality because silence can be a deadly weapon. It can destroy some, and it can allow others to stay ignorant.
Being honest with ourselves and acknowledging that systemic racism is embedded in our system and keeps inequalities alive — only then will our eyes be opened to the atrocities of the current system, so we can work together to build a new one for a fairer society.
Courtney Johnson is an Evansville native and the founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Young & Established.