My name is Aurreeshae Hines, and I race because I want to be a part of the solution.
Growing up, in a sheltered community of a small town in Southern Indiana, I wasn’t exposed to some of the discrimination that was faced by most minorities in this country. I grew up in a town where I was one of two or three little brown faces in a class, and although I knew I looked different than most people in my class, the difference in skin tone was never relevant to me until I got to high school.
Once I entered high school my eyes were opened to racial discrimination that people of color face across the globe. I began to get only a taste of what our Civil Right Activist were fighting for. Although my encounters with discrimination weren’t nearly of the same magnitude as that of Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks, they still made a lasting impact on the way I perceived society.
My peers made it clear to me that I was different, my hair went from being normal hair to “rough, different and nappy” and my name went from being unique to “too long and ghetto.” They also began to try and give me validation by saying “I
talk or act white so it’s okay” or “You’re smart, for a black girl.” As a freshman in high school I never said anything about it, to me they were my friends and those were compliments. I should be happy that they accept me despite my hair and skin color, right?
It wasn’t until sophomore year that I realized the answer to that question was “no.” My sophomore year began in 2012, and that was also the year that an unarmed teenage boy in Florida was gunned down by a neighborhood watch man, who claimed he was threatened by a boy wearing a hoodie carrying a bottle of lemonade and a bag of skittles. This boy’s name was Trayvon Martin, and this case is still one of the most controversial racial injustice cases in the world. On a global scale this case was on every new station and every news stand for weeks, and in my hometown this case began to separate me from my peers. I thought that it as plain and clear that this was a crime that should be punished by jail time but as media began to frame Martin to be a “thug,” I began to hear people question if it was self defense and if he deserved it.
This became a heated debate amongst my classmates and our school newspaper did a story on it. As I began to see how some people really were blind to clear prejudice, I started to realize that discrimination wasn’t too far removed from the world we live in. Then I began to re-analyze the snarky comments of my classmates and question how they really perceived me.
Following the Trayvon Martin case, there were several other cases that made the nation, and myself, question the justice system and the “equality” that was suppose to be wide spread. Once I began college, I joined the Black Lives Matter movement at West Virginia State University, and that is where my active fight against racism began. It is also where my relationship with the YWCA blossomed. Our chapter held a BLM Policy Summit, where different people in the community gathered on our campus and we discussed different policies we wanted to push at the capitol that would lead toward equal chance opportunity for people of color, and a more diverse curriculum that included black history in our classes. Among the community participants, were members of the YWCA Racial Justice and Communications department. It was there that I met them and two years later, I am a proud intern for YWCA Charleston and even more proud to be a participant of the upcoming Race to End Racism in April.
This Race will promote a cohesive and equal community, in a time where the nation is badly divided by social, political and racial indifference, and I race because I want to be apart of the fight to eliminate racism.
To join us go to www.ywcacharleston.org/race and sign up to walk or run individually, create team or become sponsor.