As part of AILA’s internal reflection during this time, staff were invited to share their perspectives and experiences relating to America’s divisive and unjust past, the current situation, and our commitment to a better future. One staff member shared a perspective that covers the gamut and we are grateful she has chosen to share some of her insights with us via this blog post:

Joy, first, thanks for sharing your story with us. When you reflect on these protests, what do they bring to mind for you from your personal history?

It brings to mind so many things. My personal stories of racism come with a long list but here is what I remember.

I remember at the age of 9 years old, in Baltimore city, going through the 1968 protest.  I was too young to truly understand what was really going on but one thing I did know was everyone around me was sad, upset and in pain. I was afraid to come outside to play, which back then was what kids did all day. The air outside smelled like a charcoal grill from the burning buildings. My dad, who was in the National Guard at the time, was deployed to the streets to fight against his race of people who felt abused.  I was so afraid that something might happen to him.

I remember when my parents were trying to buy a house and we went to the rental offices where we were told we could look but blacks were not allowed to live in their community. Whenever we would pull up to a rental office, I hated getting out of the car.  After buying the house, my dad wasn’t allowed to dock his boat in the community where we lived.

I remember having to walk to school because my neighbor threated the boy’s parents who was giving us a ride with not giving him his allergy shots.  The sad part about that was she was a nurse.

I remember my mother, brother and I being pushed off the road in our car by boys calling us the ‘N’ word.

I remember at the age of 10, while living in California, my son being taken to the police station and stripped when a little girl was hit in the eye by a rock. Even though the girl told the police that she didn’t know who hit her with the rock, because it was about 30 kids throwing rocks.  This was a 10-year-old.

I also lived in California below Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots and I remember being afraid to drive my car to go to the store.  Once again, there was a feeling of my race of people being abused.

This list could go on and on.

As you saw matters unfold in Minnesota and then protests and demonstrations in other cities, including Washington DC, what were your concerns in this current situation?

My concerns are for my son who I thought would not have to experience any of this.  My concerns are for my grandson who, like I was, is too young to understand how this will impact his future.  I’m concerned for myself because it is not just happening to the black males.

This is an anguishing time for so many, and we see people standing in solidarity. Do you feel hopeful that real lasting change will occur?

Honestly, it depends on what day you ask the question.  As I think back to what my parents and my grandparents went through and look at the situation now, I don’t feel so far removed from the sit ins, the black only restrooms, the water hoses and the marches.  And yes, people are standing in solidarity but what happens a few months from now when everyone’s attention has moved on to something else?  What’s the next tragedy that has to occur in order for non-African Americans to want to stand in solidarity?

Any final insights you’d like to share?

Awareness is good but awareness without action doesn’t bring about change.