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Being Black in America: Evette Campbell

In her own words, an African American community resident shares a first-person story about what it looks, feels and sounds like to be black in America.

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Continuing a conversation we’re privileged to host, The News-Gazette asked African American community members to share their stories and solutions in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

Featured today: EVETTE CAMPBELL, a Champaign County court clerk.

If you’d like to share your story, email jdalessio@news-gazette.com. To view the entire series, click here.

Evette campbell

Evette Campbell in an alley off of Main Street in Urbana on Friday, June 12, 2020.

‘Imagine being in a room of 100 white men and being the only black woman. How loud would you have to yell just to get noticed and heard?’

By EVETTE CAMPBELL

I have had a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from complete anger, to sadness, to hope. Hope in knowing that these tragic killings of black people by police over the past few months will not be in complete vain. It has at least forced people to have long-overdue open and difficult conversations about race relations in this country.

Race relations in this country are very complex. Being black in America is sometimes like trying to walk on both sides of the fence at one time.

For example, traditions and expectations that demonstrate patriotism are important and respected. As a proud Army brat, I knew the importance of them at an early age.

Black Americans also know the historical timelines that parallel the fact that these traditions and expectations didn’t pertain to us as black Americans. There will be people who say: “That was the past. Why does that matter now?” It matters because in order to understand the present, you must know how the past shaped the world we know today.

I’ve not experienced blatant, in-your-face racism much. It’s the subtle racism and microaggressions that are constant.

It’s the humble bragging of things afforded to white people through generational wealth, the non-acknowledgment of white privilege and self-entitlement that makes it hard to navigate the game of life.

It’s the never-ending teeter-totter of feelings: trying to stay genuine to whom I am, always standing my ground, defending myself and my culture. All while avoiding the stereotypes of “the angry black woman.”

Imagine being in a room of 100 white men and being the only black woman. How loud would you have to yell just to get noticed and heard?

My job affords me the opportunity to work with some wonderful members of the law enforcement community. Therefore, I cannot compare the actions of these police officers to the integrity of every member of law enforcement.

I have participated in protests and supported community change. Once again, this is my experience feeling like I am walking both sides of the fence.

I’ve been encouraged by my white friends who have reached out to me to ask what they can do because they want to learn and speak out. What else can white people do?

Speak up when someone is spewing hate and ignorance. Be willing to tow the line as an ally. Get to know us and our history.

Seeing such a rainbow of people peacefully protesting for change shows great unity. It shows that white people are willing to listen and stand with us to combat racial bias, discrimination and prejudice, which are real issues that affect everyone.

For those who are not ready to have conversations in the open, I encourage them to study black history by reading books or watching documentaries in the comfort of their home because you must know and learn history to understand the present and to assure not to repeat its ugliness.

As the celebration of Juneteenth approaches, realize we are only 157 years post slavery. Changing this country takes time, and Mr. Floyd’s tragic death, as well as countless others, will not be in vain.

If you’d like to share your story, email Editor Jeff D’Alessio at jdalessio@news-gazette.com.

Evette Campbell is a Central High graduate and the Champaign County court clerk for Judge Tom Difanis.