The shooting in Charleston started a national conversation about race. For many people, this conversation is uncomfortable, sometimes even confrontational. As a young biracial woman—my father is African-American and from Jamaican and my mother is Caucasian—I am able to see these issues and through two different lenses.

Most people can agree that the shooting that occurred in Charleston was a horrific act of terror, however, some reactions to this tragedy have been anything but empathetic. Online news stories published about the Charleston shooting churned up some nasty comments at a time when the proper messages should be those concerning only hope, support, and healing.

When people go so far as to deny the fact that racism still exists in this country, it blows me away. When you’ve seen it happen with your own eyes, it makes sense how racially charged and confrontational some of these conversations have become. Although my own experience with race is not even remotely comparable to the horrific hate crimes that many people of color have experienced in this nation, it goes to show that racism does still exist, even among young people. The shooting in Charleston also demonstrated that it’s not just a generational problem.

Growing up as a biracial child in North Carolina, I’ve seen it first-hand. I had huge, frizzy curls that my mother did not quite know how to take care of and in elementary school I was for the first time called a racial slur and repeatedly picked on for my hair. They kids in my class nicknamed me “Zimbabwe” because of it. As I grew older, I was the target of bullying by black girls during middle school because of my “light skinned” color. In high school I experienced being called “mutt” and even had a boy tell me “I would date you if you were white.”

Racism and prejudice exist in all groups of people, but how we choose to address these matters is up to us. I believe that diversity is one of our nation’s greatest assets. We should embrace it as such. Each of us has a duty to stand up for one another as Americans—as human beings.

Allowing people in this day and age to suffer because of the color of their skin is a true tragedy. Saying that the shooting in Charleston is the act of a “lone wolf” or that it does not represent the still present voice of racism and prejudice in America is to deny the experiences of millions of African-Americans and people of color in this country.

 


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