Mailin, Nate, and their family.
“My family went to a protest and learned that lots of people want change. My brother and I each had signs that said, “Black Lives Matter.” I also learned that Black people feel vulnerable because of what has happened. It’s like they’re getting picked on in a big way. Having lived in Turkey while my dad was working on his PhD gave me an opportunity to experience different cultures and appreciate them.”
“The lives and the value of everyone should not be affected by a person’s race. Race is not a weakness. It is a trait of humans that makes us interesting and unique. I heard someone at school call the coronavirus the ‘Kung Flu,’ and it was kind of a joke, but it’s also not kind to people like us. It’s hurtful to us.”
“We were in high school and college during the L.A. riots in 1992. I worked at Compton College for four years after graduating. Part of our early journey included exposure to urban justice projects, and we both worked with an organization committed to ethnic reconciliation and justice. I have seen how systematic racism affects infrastructure, food scarcity, housing, everything. Poverty chips away at human rights. Money was spent, some neighborhoods were developed while others weren’t, primarily neighborhoods of color. We see the same in Columbus.”
“We’ve been together since 2003. As a mixed-race couple, we never really experienced anything probably because we grew up in California. I never felt like a person of color until I moved to Ohio in 2014.”
“As an Asian-American, I’m often labeled the model minority. But all of the privileges I was granted thanks to the Immigration Act of 1965, which passed on the coattails of the Civil Rights Act, were due to the long suffering of African Americans. The American Dream that if you work hard you can achieve just isn’t true. My parents began with privilege, education. I benefited from their privilege.”
“As a white person, I always thought that the Civil Rights Movement was the end of all the injustice and struggle, but the riots I experienced in 1992 in L.A. were an awakening for me. It wasn’t close to over. In 1997, I was able to go down to Jackson, Mississippi, and it was the first time I had ever been to the South. The conference I attended in Jackson addressed the topic of reconciliation across ethnic categories and was led by Black and white religious leaders who were intentionally trying to lead their congregations in a conversation of being honest about the reality and the ongoing effects of racism in their religious communities. Just driving around Jackson during the conference I saw the injustice and lack of development in the community compared to where I grew up in California.”
“Most recently, with our President’s rhetoric, even when he first announced his candidacy, he had the slogan, ‘Make American Great Again.’ Well, when are you talking about? During slavery, during Jim Crow, during Chinese building railroads? It’s a totally misinformed, ignorant nostalgia, the worst of nostalgia. For the last three-and-a-half years, he has been rehashing this discourse that is so hurtful and offensive, and empowering people who might be on the fence or not sure what they think, and they find a kind of voice, a hero in him. The most recent iteration with the ‘Kung Flu’ became personal because of my family. And I could not believe that peers of mine, old friends, could not even agree that it was hurtful and wrong. It was really sad and frustrating. In order to be okay with this, you have to see another person as less than human. White supremacy steals your ability to see, to feel, to hold other people in high esteem.”
“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is that ‘[t]he most segregated hour in America is 11:00am on Sunday.’ He’s speaking to my religious context as a Christian and how tragic that is that something so fundamental, that should bring people together, their faith, actually has isolated people because our churches segregate so distinctly. I’ve been lucky to be in religious spaces where leaders challenge that segregation. How do we fix this on a bigger scale? Just having a Black friend isn’t enough. We have to do more.”
“If the majority of your time is spent in a majority culture, then you have to make decisions to do something else. Our kids having the opportunity to grow up in Turkey helped decrease that sense of otherness.”
“As we raise our two boys and reflect on our country’s turmoil during this time, I am inspired by this quote from Austin Channing Brown: ‘The work of anti-racism is the work of becoming a better human to others. Have you built the capacity to care about others more than you care about your own ego?’”
The portraits of Mailin, Nate, and their family and their words are part of my project to show how Columbus is responding to and working through the current national protests in support of Black Lives Matter.
In addition to creating the portraits for the project, I have asked participants to “donate what you can” for each portrait sitting. Donations will benefit the Equal Justice Initiative, a national organization directed by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.
(If you’re interested in donating directly to the organization, you can donate here.)
As of this post, the project has donated $840 to EJI.
Thank you, Mailin, Nate, and everyone who has joined the project. To join my project, please send me a private message or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to tell your story next.
To read more about the project and to see a list of all the sessions, please click this link.