Racism is Real

Antonio Stinson (center) with his Mom and Dad, at a USC Athletic event.
Image: Courtesy of the Stinson Family

In the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, social media was flooded with painful personal stories about navigating life amid a society fueled by racism. Every story I read was impactful in its own way. But on May 30, 2020, when I read  Annette Rowland’s Facebook post, I wanted to pack-up my old VW, head to DC, protest my ass off and then find a job working for the ACLU. Thanks to technology though, I quickly realized I could augment the pleas of both friends and strangers right from the pandemic-free environment of my very own home – by leveraging my writer’s voice to help cultivate permanent change.

Before Breonna, George and Rayshard, there was Ariane McCree: Antonio Stinson’s Story

By Ashley Henyan

“Growing up in South Carolina, my parents taught me to be respectful to everyone—but they stressed it for interactions with law enforcement,” 23-year old TV-news Journalist, Antonio Stinson, told me. “But this is even more important to me now.”

This is because less than a year ago, only days after Antonio had visited his family in Chester, SC for the Thanksgiving holiday, 28-year old, Ariane McCree, was handcuffed and then shot over 20 times by police – killed in broad daylight, in a Walmart parking lot.

Ariane McCree was Antonio Stinson’s cousin.

Antonio lives in Goose Creek, SC – where he was born and raised. He and I are Facebook friends and last Thursday, after I read his post, I scheduled a call for the very next day – to talk about racism in America and learn more about Antonio’s own story. 

“It’s just been bothering me,” said Antonio. How can you get things fixed when you have to change people’s mindsets and what is in their hearts?”

But Antonio’s personal interactions with people of all races, especially as a journalism student (he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2019), were – for the most part – all good.

“There was one time, at a high-end store. The security guard was focusing on me the whole time,” Antonio said. “I wish I could’ve bought something to prove him wrong.”

It happened at a mall in Charlotte, NC. Antonio had set off on a day trip, with two friends: a Black girl and an Asian guy. He described not being able to afford anything in the store – but still having the right to look. He also described how uncomfortable it felt to be watched closely by security, the entire time he browsed.

To some of this, I can relate. I remember living in South Florida and going to the Ball Harbor Shops for the first time. I was in my early 20’s – and I couldn’t afford one thing in any of the stores. But, the difference between Antonio’s experience and mine: despite plenty of security around, not a single guard gave me a second look.

“It’s not a political issue. It’s a human issue,” Antonio said – after I asked what we needed to do to cultivate progress and permanent change.

Right on, Mr. Stinson. I could not have said it better myself.

In all, our conversation lasted for the better part of an hour – but, Antonio didn’t bring up his cousin’s death until we were nearly ready to get off the phone. For some reason though, this wasn’t surprising to me. Antonio is one of the most respectful young reporters I have worked with in my nearly 20-year career. Throughout our professional interactions, the fact that his parents armed him with the values necessary for success, has always been abundantly clear.

Until last Friday afternoon, I had never heard of Ariane McCree. And, even though the video footage of his death is extremely uncomfortable to watch, I’m thankful Antonio brought it up. Because, now I know that before Breonna Taylor, before George Floyd and before Rayshard Brooks, there have been many other lives lost too soon.

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