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Power 2 Change: YWCA CEO Renita Robinson on standing against racism

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 9:50 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As a community resource, WBAY knows we need to do more to advance the conversation about race in Northeast Wisconsin.

This is the Power 2 Change.

Renita Robinson is the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Green Bay YWCA. The YWCA is leading the conversation about race in our community through its “Stand Against Racism’ series, and other initiatives designed to educate and to inform. Robinson is sharing her own story as a professional woman, raising two sons, and talking about the worries she’s had along the way.

For more information the YWCA series visit https://www.ywcagreenbay.org/events/stand-against-racism-series/

“My name is Renita Robinson, and I’m the CEO of the YWCA of Greater Green Bay. I am new to the Green Bay area, two-and-a-half years now, 28 months. It’s actually been a pretty fantastic time here.

“I chose to come and be the CEO of the YWCA after about 30 years in working in victim support services. I think that I am totally aware that the experiences that my children have had on the playground are very different than my white friends who are moms. I can remember times when my children would get in the car after being at a play date, and how they looked made me say, ‘What’s the matter?‘

“My oldest son, I’ll never forget this, we were at a high school football game and he was probably in 5th grade, and they were playing like little kids do, under the bleachers, tossing the football and stuff. At the end of the night, when it was time to leave, when he got in the car he looked so strange, and I was like, ‘Babe, what happened?’ And he was like, ‘A boy said something to me.’ I was like, ‘What did he say to you?’ And he says, ‘He said “black boy.” Mom, it wasn’t what he said, it was how he said it.' I was like, ‘How did he say it?’ ‘Black (emphasis) boy (emphasis).’ I was like, ‘OK, really? How did that make you feel?’ And he said, ‘My tummy hurt, Mom.’

“Yeah. I don’t think white moms are having that kind of experience and the conversation, ‘OK, the education starts now.‘

“You start to educate and you ask them questions. ‘Well, what do you think that could’ve meant?' He didn’t have any idea. But that was an opportunity for me to start to develop the scaffolding that I would build his understanding of what it is to be a Black man in American culture.

“When the stuff happened to George Floyd, I called my youngest son immediately, and I was like, ‘I am grateful for your life. I am grateful that the interactions that you have had with law enforcement didn’t end badly,' you know, and I say, ‘Do good, do good, do good.‘

“And I feel the pain of it. To hear a grown man cry out for a deceased mom? Because they are in that kind of fear and that kind of panic? It’s heart wrenching, and I think that it’s one of the reasons that this particular murder by the police has created the kind of energy it has. Consider that there’s a lot of work to be done.

“Black people, Brown people, they shouldn’t be on the hook for doing the work. I think if you are talking about making change, and education and those kinds of things; I think the folks that benefit the most from their positions of privilege, they really need to be doing the work or taking the lead on the work.

“I would encourage people to put yourself into uncomfortable situations sometimes that expose you to people who are a different race, a different culture, a different affinity group than you, and you will begin to learn things that perhaps shatter stereotypes, beliefs that are just not accurate, and give you some surprises that are pretty sweet, you know?”

You can watch our extended interview with Renita Robinson below and listen to the conversation continue on our Get 2 the Point podcast dedicated to Power 2 Change.

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