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WHY I STAND UP

FROM OUR TOGETHER WE STAND NC AMBASSADORS

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Why I Stand Up: Karmen Bulmer

 

Navigating the intricate terrain of self-discovery, I've confronted the uncomfortable truths within my own narrative. I've used race as an excuse, stayed silent in the face of loved ones expressing racist sentiments, and acknowledged the privilege I unknowingly benefit from.

 

As I embark on the quest to unravel my identities, I grapple daily with the authenticity of my true self. My introspective skills, present since childhood, have been cultivated as the eldest of four in my family unit. Always praised for being 'mature' for my age, this maturity was not merely inherent; it emerged from a profound need – the need to be seen.

 

Growing up was a journey with just my mom, dad, and three younger siblings—no extended family to share in the familial tapestry. Close in age, we created our own eccentric traditions, laced with occasional sibling rivalry. From fighting over who sat where in the car to arguing about who stole whose favorite pair of Hollister shorts, it was never a dull moment to say the least.

 

In the absence of extended family, we sought solace in other "third places," such as church. My journey took an interesting turn within the walls of a Pentecostal church, where we stood as one of two Caucasian families among a predominantly black congregation. Yearning for that elusive 'third place,' I relished in the camaraderie of church life. From step dancing during vacation bible school to the jovial Happy Birthday renditions, my comfort within the black community began to flourish.

 

Unfamiliar and naive of racism at the time, I didn’t understand why I was treated differently sometimes at church. Despite occasional moments of feeling like an outsider due to the actions of other children, I persevered. I recall one instance where a "friend" at the church suggested I didn’t belong there because it’s a black church and I’m white. This experience understandably hurt my feelings but, more importantly, it confused me. Why did it matter?

 

This was the first of many experiences I had with racism over the years. Always remembering how I felt when my “friend” asked me that, I knew that I never wanted to make anyone feel that way – unworthy, self-conscious, different.

 

A few years ago, I was on a work trip with an employee of mine who is a person of color. We were staying at a hotel together and she went to the downstairs lobby to get a drink. After taking longer than anticipated, she finally came back up to the room, visibly upset. While waiting for the elevator, a staff member of the hotel approached her asking if she was staying at the hotel. Dressed in pajamas and holding her keycard, she answered yes. I can’t recall if the hotel staff further pressed her, but she stated they didn’t approach the white girl in the lobby. Going to get something as simple as a drink and being asked if you belong there is hurtful.

 

I stand up to chase my purpose—a purpose deeply rooted in the belief that by creating spaces and advocating for diverse experiences, we contribute to a world where everyone has the opportunity to connect, learn, and appreciate the richness of our shared humanity. I stand up because we are all human and deserve to be treated as such.

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Why I Stand Up: Amanda Polito

 

Who am I? Hippie, Cowgirl, Nature Enthusiast, Artist/ Painter, Mom, Herbalist, Homesteader, Social Activist, Horse mom, Animal Lover, Creative, Plant Lover, Tree Hugger

 

What makes me want to Stand Up? I was raised in a small town in Indiana that was almost completely white. I wasn’t really exposed to cultural diversity until my family moved to the Carolinas in 1991. I was excited and inspired by new cultures, but there was a great divide between friend groups based on skin color in this new small affluent Carolina town. The black kids wouldn’t let me into their friend groups because I was white and the white kids wouldn’t let the black kids into their groups. This left biracial kids, kids with light skin, Asian kids, Indian kids and many others completely alienated.

 

One day in middle school, my geometry teacher left the classroom on an errand and a short black girl jumped up, came to my desk, got in my face, and said, “Get up. I’m gonna fight you.” I’ve always been a peace loving little hippie chick so, bewildered, I asked, “Why?” She got closer to my nose and said, “Because I don’t like white girls.” This was my first real, in my face, experience with racism. As a kid, I couldn’t understand what I did wrong to make her hate me because of my skin. As an adult, now I wonder what kind of horrific racism she had experienced in her short life that made her heart bitter enough to make her want to fight all the white girls.

 

I moved to Charleston, SC in 1997 to attend the College of Charleston. Suddenly, I was thrown into a world of cultural diversity- different ethnicities, sexualities, fluid genders, and people from all over the world existing together in one place. I was also welcomed by everyone and cherished the rainbow of people that I was able to call friends.

 

A few years later, I found out I was pregnant. The father was a black man with very dark skin and sparkling eyes. I was told, “It’s okay to date ‘them’, but don’t get pregnant. It’s not fair to the kids”. It’s not fair for kids to experience racism? White people should only birth white kids? So, essentially, don’t populate any more black into the world because racism exists? How about we end racism instead and work on our own hearts for the future of all of our beautiful rainbow of children?

 

Fast forward 22 years. I have an amazing, strong, independent young black son. I am so proud of the man he has become and the heart that he has, but not everyone sees him that way. He has been driving for 3- 4 years and has been stopped by the police three times, each time going FOURmiles over the speed limit while all the world’s white soccer moms fly on by. Every time he gets into his car, fear fills my heart. That he will be stopped by the wrong police officer, on the wrong day, in the wrong place. That he could reach for his license and the wrong officer, on the wrong day, in the wrong place would assume he is reaching for a weapon. Because he is a black man. He was a distance runner in school. Fear filled my heart when he would run through affluent areas to get those miles in. That he would be in the wrong neighborhood, at the wrong time, and the wrong person would think that he was running from crime. Because he is a black man. Fear fills my heart when he wears a dark colored hoodie on a cold day and pulls it over his head to protect his ears from the cold. That he would be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and the wrong person would think he was a “thug” out to hurt them. That women would clutch their purses when he walks by them. Because he is a black man.

 

This is why I Stand Up

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Why I Stand Up: Mollie Caragol

 

As a Korean transracial adoptee, I view racism and bigotry through the lens of personal experience, recognizing its impact on identity formation and the challenges associated with navigating diverse cultural backgrounds.  Through my experiences, I’ve learned the significance and the impact of embracing diversity, fostering understanding, and questioning misconceptions and ideologies. By actively challenging harmful narratives, I hope to create a space where individuals are seen for who they are rather than being confined by preconceived notions based on race or ethnicity.

This is why I Stand Up.

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Why I Stand Up: Juliellen Simpson-Vos

 

I believe everyone was created with unique attributes and abilities to be used to fulfill their potential, create good, and live in community with each other.  

 

I STAND UP because when barriers are created that limit people from reaching their potential and creating good in our world we all suffer.  

 

I STAND UP because I have hope in what our communities could look like if we all wanted and worked for the best for each other.  

 

I STAND UP because there really should be no other choice.

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