Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Chela Humber

Race relations in light of Martin case and Obama’s call to action?

Rose Krebs posted on July 28, 2013 in  “Willingboro teens talk race relations in light of Martin case, Obama’s call to action”

“They say they are trying to do what the world tells them is right.

They try their best at school, are active in their community, take responsibilities seriously, try to be polite to others, and work hard in the hopes that they can make something good of their lives.

But no matter what they do, how they behave, what character they have inside, they know some will always judge them by the color of their skin.

And they say that hurts. T

hey say it is dehumanizing and heartbreaking. And it happens frequently, as it has throughout their young lives. They say they are almost “numb” to the prejudice and racism they experience.

Willingboro Class of 2013 graduate Chela Humber

Willingboro Class of 2013 graduate Chela Humber

“We have to discuss the way we feel, and how to better the future and make America safer and an all-around friendlier environment,” — Willingboro Class of 2013 graduate Chela Humber

Avery Covington, Ty Scott, Candita John and Chela Humber are recent graduates of Willingboro High School and are now college-bound. They were active in their school community, served as leaders, and represented their school the best they could. Corrine Walker, also a student leader with many achievements, will be starting her senior year.

In light of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, the nation’s reaction to it, and President Barack Obama’s call for a national discourse on race, the teens recently agreed to be interviewed to discuss their experiences with race issues, how prejudice and racism impact them, and what their hope for the future is.

Obama’s call for discourse

“I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. There has been a lot of talk about should we convene a conversation on race,” Obama said from the White House briefing room on July 19.

I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stifled and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.

“On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.”

Many have seen this as an important moment, the first black president using his own experiences with discrimination in an attempt to steer the country toward action after a controversial legal verdict set off a firestorm of feelings about race relations.

Obama called on the nation to take nonviolent measures to try to address problems with the legal system, some laws and in everyday life.

The president’s words hit home for the teens. They know the importance of Obama offering his personal experiences to remind the nation that there is more work to be done.

Impact of prejudice and racism

Covington, who was president of the student council in 2012-13, recounted a story about attending a Model Congress event and getting a shocked reaction from another student when he talked at length about politics and history. The student could not believe the depth of knowledge he showed on the subject.

He also recalled his senior class trip to Virginia Beach, when a friend said hello to a white girl, and the police showed up to question the group about someone “harassing” her.

“It just became real that quick,” Covington said. “It was crazy.”

Humber remembered all too well the times she has been told she looks too “ethnic” in a work situation.

Scott noticed it when someone accepted a donation from him at a grocery store, and then the next person to give money got a handshake that he didn’t.

Walker knows what is likely inferred by a comment registering surprise that she is “well-spoken.”

“As if I cannot be intelligent,” she said.

John has been followed in stores with suspicious eyes.

“They have a perception of my character, and they don’t even know me,” John said. “They perceive me a certain way. It is unfair.”

Covington recalled a husband who grabbed his wife and her purse when standing next to him at a grocery store.

“I am peace, love and harmony, and he felt threatened,” he said. “I have a heart just like you, I have skin like you, I bleed the same way you do. Please don’t look at my skin and judge me. I’m a really nice guy if you just get to know me.”

The teens said such moments are hurtful.

“If somebody does something to you and it hurts and you feel it, it’s a feeling that you can’t explain,” Scott said. “I would make that comparison like you are losing a family member, because it’s a feeling you can’t explain. It’s so deep, it happens so hard, it hits so hard.

Covington said he feels “dehumanized” and “dumbfounded” when experiencing prejudice.

“You can’t see I’m just like you, except a different skin color?” he said. “You can’t see that not everybody is the same? Can you realize that I’m not a monster here? … Why are you coming against me because of the color of my skin? I don’t understand.”

Walker, who is the daughter of Chris Walker, a former school board member and Democratic nominee for the Township Council, said she knows race is a factor in her everyday life.

“Race in this country is very, very evident. It can’t be denied,” she said. “As African-Americans, we are raised to know that we don’t always get the best hand. We’ve been in this same stage for decades. We can’t expect it to change overnight.”

Although it hurts deeply, Walker said her experience with racism has made her more motivated.

“It can’t be used as an excuse. You can’t use it as a crutch,” she said. “Be the best person you can be; keep your head up.”

Lessons learned

The teenagers said they were taught by their families the challenges of being black in America. They were told they need to be aware that they will, at times, be treated differently in school, by authorities and by society.

“My parents didn’t have to tell me every day,” Walker said. “You are not them — that is something I know.”

“We definitely have these talks with our children and their friends, what it is to walk out of the house and be judged differently than when you’re in your house,” said her father, Chris Walker.

“As a black man in America, we have so many stigmas and stereotypes against us,” Covington said. “We’re supposed to be the guy who doesn’t know what we want to do. … You don’t have it like other people in society. You have to work harder.”

Humber said “you tend to get numb” when being judged because of your skin color.

“You don’t want to respond to ignorance with ignorance,” she said.

“If you dwell on it, it will cripple you,” Covington said.

“Success is the greater thing. That is the way to overcome,” Humber said.

“We’re so immune to it. We’re not surprised by society anymore,” Walker said. “We are motivated.”

“We develop a tougher skin,” John said.

‘A slap in the face’

The teens said they were disappointed by the Trayvon Martin case. The killing of the Florida teen and not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman was hard to take.

“The victim was made to be the aggressor,” Walker said. “The justice system we have now looks at society in one way — it looks at color.”

Walker said she feels Zimmerman judged “a book by its cover” when it came to Martin.

“That happens too much in society,” she said.

“If George Zimmerman didn’t break the law, then the law is broken,” Covington said. “He got off on killing someone. It was almost like a slap in the face.”

Chris Walker said he believes society views race issues too much based on when something tragic happens. The successes, such as Obama being elected president, are as important and evidence that progress has been made. It’s important to keep perspective, he said.

“You don’t let another person define you,” Walker said of the lesson he teaches his kids. “You don’t allow someone else to control and define your destiny.”

Hope for the future

The teens said they hope there will be productive discourse about race issues in America. And they know that all races need to be a part of the discussions. From those discussions, they hope progress can result.

Temple University professor Karen Turner believes the media need to play an important role in the discourse about race if any progress is to be made.

“Media contribute to our inability to have a robust conversation about race. Stereotypes are perpetuated,” Turner said. “This is clear from the (Martin) case — a situation where jurors and some segments of the public could rationally see an unarmed African-American teenager as a thuggish black boogeyman. … If journalists are going to have the capacity to report and not repeat … to frame this important conversation into a meaningful context, they must first be willing to step outside their comfort zone and be honestly introspective. This is what the president is challenging all of us to do.”

“If we focus on how different we are, there will be no progress in the near future or anything for that matter, because everyone will be focusing on themselves and not the world as a whole. And that, I think, is self-destructive,” John said.

Covington believes all need to come together for the common good.

“We need to awaken that sleeping giant. Our generation is somewhat lackadaisical when it comes to these type of movements and actions and protests,” he said. “Martin Luther King, our great forefather, said: ‘Evil triumphs when good sits there and does nothing.’ We have to stand up and do something, as a people, as a nation, to promote the human race … not just different factions of races.”

Rose Krebs: 609-871-8064; email:; Twitter: @rosekrebs

To subscribe, go to




June 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,522,219 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 770 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: