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Cornelius News

Speaking up even when it’s uncomfortable


June 16. By Dave Yochum. Jetton Road isn’t exactly where you’d expect to see a civil rights demonstration, albeit with just one person. Emily Paton, 18, got her share of honks, thumbs up signs, and that one-finger salute everyone hates, but she was all in on a hot June afternoon just outside The Peninsula.

Paton, who will start at Davidson College this fall, said she wanted to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to honor George Floyd, the man who died under a police officer’s knee in Minneapolis.

She also wanted to “emphasize that we cannot drive to the suburbs to escape American racism.”

She lives with her mom and dad, Ellen and Christopher Paton, on Spinnaker’s Reach in The Peninsula; big sisters Kathryn and Sarah are 21.

Defining white privilege

“White privilege doesn’t mean white people haven’t had difficult lives, it means that white people haven’t had even more difficult lives because of their race. For white people, acknowledging our white privilege and educating ourselves on how to be the best allies to Black Americans is an essential part of being a conscientious American citizen,” Paton said.

There’s grassroots enthusiasm for the civil rights of black Americans beyond large, diverse cities.

A peaceful demonstration in front of the Cornelius Police Dept. brought out hundreds of people, mostly white, in support of civil rights for African Americans. Police Chief Kevin Black guessed 400 or more attended. There have been peaceful demonstrations in Davidson as well.

During a virtual town hall, former president Barack Obama said George Floyd-era protesters now represent a cross-section of races. Many are young, like Paton.

‘Nervous and uncomfortable’

“While I have been nervous and uncomfortable holding my signs, my experience has shown me that I have created discomfort and conversation that likely didn’t exist before in my suburban neighborhood. In doing this, I have also had to realize that my fear and discomfort in these moments is only a fraction of the fear and discomfort that many black Americans face daily,” Paton said.