Black in Worthington
A paper I wrote back on June 7th, 2020 sharing my experiences growing up in my hometown of Worthington, Ohio.
I don’t normally share a lot of things that are really personal. I’ve gone out of my way to really keep those things close to me because I never wanted to seem vulnerable. The last couple of years I’ve experienced some very big, life-changing experiences that have made me do a lot of self reflection. I hope that by reading this, people can take away something positive.
Growing up in Worthington, Ohio my whole life I’ve been very fortunate to live in a safe community with great people. I’ve always been seen as the shy, quiet, and passive kid who always has a smile on his face. The one thing that has always bothered me was the notion that I was “Whitest black guy in Worthington.” This is a stigma that I’ve had put on me my entire life because I didn’t fit the stereotypical image of what a black person is perceived to be. I played sports, I got good grades, I was never a confrontational person, I dressed in athletic clothing 90% of the time, and a majority of my friends were white. While this was said to me as a joke by many, I always saw it as a backhanded compliment. It was a microinsult that I let slide because I never wanted to take it personally. The idea that being successful and doing the right things automatically made me white was something that I strongly disagreed with. In my head I thought “Why can’t a black person achieve good things and be a great person without there being a narrative to it?” To me, whether people intended to or not, they matched the content of my character to a specific race. I always thought that was wrong, but never wanted to speak out on it. I felt that my voice didn’t matter to people. With that being said, the current status of our country has made me bring these personal issues to light and give me confidence in doing so. The police brutality, racism, and injustice that has been against the people of my color has been a predominant issue that our country has failed to acknowledge and more so than not, ignore.
I think about the lives of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the victims of the Charleston church shooting. The one thing they all had in common was they had their lives taken away from them unceremoniously simply because of the color of their skin. Did I know any of these people personally? No I didn’t, but that never mattered to me because I knew that what happened to those people was wrong and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. For so long we’ve seen this and tried to brush it off to the side because the powers that be want to claim that “We’ve come a long way as a country and we’re still an amazing country.” This was an excuse that I always resented because despite how far we’ve come as a country in terms of how blacks are treated, we still didn’t truly want to address racism and police brutality as an issue. To me seeing things like this happen to blacks all over the country made me sick because I realized that this could easily happen to me and my environment is what has protected me from that. That’s why when I’ve wanted to speak out in the past about these things being wrong and wanting to bring change to this issue I feared people would bring me down and say “You live in Worthington you’ll be fine.” Too many times I was truly seen as a white person to the eyes of my peers, but I knew that at the end of the day if I got pulled over by a police officer they’d see me for what I truly am and that’s a black male. I’ve been grateful to never experience police brutality, but it didn’t change the fact that I truly feared for my life every time I was involved with a police officer in any way because of the color of my skin. Being in Worthington all my life I’ve understood that I’m in position where I’m safe for the most part, while keeping in the back of my head that all it takes is one bad cop and my life could be taken because I’m black.
After the recent events in this country I’ve finally decided that it is time for me to use my platform and speak up on this issue. I believe it’s time that we hold the people in power accountable to make real change to the killings of unarmed black people. The reason this movement matters to me is because of the empathy, love, and compassion I have for everyone around me. Racism is a true disease in our country and as someone who is fortunate enough to live in a safe community and be well educated, it’s my duty to do the right thing and stand up for what I believe in. Oppression is something that I still face everyday despite my environment. The idea that it doesn’t affect you personally is why we’ve been pleading for change for so long. At the end of the day this is not a political issue, this is a human rights issue. An issue that I plan on bringing positive change to, because this is about something way bigger than myself. It’s about the people like George Floyd who in his final minutes screamed “I can’t breathe” and had his voice silenced because he wasn’t seen as worthy. I want to be a catalyst of change. What bringing an end to racism and police brutality symbolizes to me is the ultimate apology to those lives that were lost in an act of hate because they couldn’t stand up for themselves. It’s my responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless. I simply ask that people can truly put themselves in other people’s shoes and realize that this is something worth fighting for.
I’ve never forgot where I came from and what my morals are. Treating others with fair and equal treatment regardless of race is what is truly in my heart. So I want that to be in all our hearts. I never in my wildest dreams thought that someone like me, would be capable of bringing positive change to the world, but I realize that I’m more than capable of doing that. That’s why I ask everyone to feel that they can bring positive change too. We live in a world of “What ifs?” I want to make that “What if?” of ending racism disappear because it’s something that has no place in this world.
My life has been very good and I’m so grateful for that. However people have assumed because of my situation and my setting that I don’t face racism in my life. I’ve had the racial trauma of thinking because my life has been good, I shouldn’t be allowed to speak up on the poor treatment of people of my race, and that my feelings are invalid. That is no longer the case because in 20 years from now when we look back at all of this I want to be able to say I helped play a role in the right type of change. For the first time in my life I’m able to say that I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m not the “Whitest black guy in Worthington.” That was never the case. I’m just black and I wouldn’t have it any other way because I’m proud of being black. I don’t believe my characteristics should ever be associated with the color of my skin. I believe I have something you can’t fake. I have grit! So I hope by reading this that we can all take a moment of self reflection and truly do what is right and that’s accepting everyone. George Floyd couldn’t breathe in his final moments on this earth, I want to make it my mission as long as I can breathe to end that type of treatment. So as the black guy that grew up in Worthington, Ohio I want to do what’s right. The only question I have left for everyone is, do you?