I like it or not. So the world that I think we’re in the process of imagining is one in which I have to work harder in order for the fabric of the society around me to remain intact. I think the world these protests are imagining is one in which everyone is truly better off and everyone feels better deep in themselves, but it’s one in which a lot of people have to work harder. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to practice that, and going out to protest is a very easy ramp onto a practice of work for other people because at the end of the day, it is kind of fun, especially in pandemic when you don’t see other humans in large groups basically anywhere else.
LYDIA BODINE, 21 KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE
I grew up in Jefferson County, which is about 45 minutes out of here. It’s a small country full of farmland. Racism wasn’t even a topic growing up. So everyone was like, “Racism doesn’t exist, it’s gone.” I grew up thinking that. It was a very white, very conservative town.
There was a lot of passive racism in our church—you know, turning a blind eye. A lot got swept under the rug—people just refusing to acknowledge racism by saying, “It’s not my problem.” And at the time I thought the Christian thing to do was to not confront, or not make a big deal of it, especially as a girl. Even in our youth group, whenever they would say something bad, I didn’t know how to be like, “Hey, that’s not cool to say—what the heck?” One of my friends in a youth group got called a “dog”—like, literally—and I don’t know why I thought that was okay. I knew in my heart it wasn’t right, but I guess I didn’t know it was wrong not to say something.
I didn’t realize how toxic it was until I left. I lived on my own a little bit before going to Berea College in Kentucky. Berea was the first interracial college in the South. It’s a very diverse school and they had a lot of classes about Black history. So it opened my eyes to so much—all this stuff I had never been exposed to or ever thought about. And I had a couple different friends there that would tell me that there are little things that may not seem racist but are still offensive. So I started to have conversations with people and they’d be like, “Hey, that’s not cool.” And I think I realized how much I should have stood up for, and against, in my community—things that I