'It is about acknowledgement': NC State professor reflects on son's racist encounter

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When Jodi Hall awoke Sunday morning to the images of violence in Raleigh and around the country, she wondered what people were saying on social media.

As she suspected, many were concentrating on the looting and burning.

"It was so much about this destruction and destroying property," Hall said. "And I thought, 'We're going to miss this moment. We're going to allow them to change the narrative to be about property destruction and not looking at the underlying issues.'"

So, the North Carolina State University professor penned a long Facebook post. Not as long as the thesis for her PhD, but long.

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"And I've been really overwhelmed by the response," she said adding that her post addresses persistent negative comments on social media, ""It's easy for people to say, 'Oh, look at them.' And, 'See, they're destroying this or that.' And I certainly have white friends that I know think that way. So I wanted to post something and as I was writing it I realized I could both talk to them and validate the people that were working for justice at the same time."

The post was written around a memory from several years ago when her son Elijah started pursuing his love of art by buying used furniture and repurposing it.

It was just months after the murder of Trayvon Martin in the Florida 'stand your ground' case. When Elijah, then a teenager, showed up at a north Raleigh home to buy a table he found on Craigslist, the white man selling it assumed it was a set-up for a robbery.

"He just immediately started spewing racist stuff and threating him that he was going to come out and shoot him, told him that he had the right to stand his ground and that he better get away from his house right away or he was going to shoot the expletive out of him," Hall said. "And he talked about how 'I know you people. You just want to come in here and rob me.'"

Hall said she figured it was a simple misunderstanding and called the man herself.

"He started yelling at me and saying that you black mothers are all alike. You protect these thugs," she said.

She said the word thug had become recently become racially charged, and she knew Elijah needed to immediately leave the neighborhood.

In her Facebook post, she tried to explain to her Caucasian friends and family about the emotional scars the incident left on her son--scars that were reactivated by the George Floyd video.

Even though he's never been in trouble with the law, the Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia is fearful, all because of the color of his skin.

"Doing the right thing, working hard, trying to make a difference, being an excellent student, it's not actually a protective factor for you," his mom said.

Despite the stark video of George Floyd being slowly killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, she said she saw people on social media searching for reasons to pin the tragedy on Floyd.

"The typical, 'Yeah, but we don't know what happened before that.' There's no benefit of the doubt when you're a person of color. It's always that we must have been doing something wrong," Hall said.

She said if her son had been shot and killed at that north Raleigh home years ago, she knows people would have question what Elijah had done to cause his own death.

"There would be people out there saying, 'Well, he must have done this or that,'" Hall said. "And when I became that black mom on TV crying and saying, 'My son was an honor roll student. He was a good boy.' It would be like, 'Ah, here they go again.'"

Hall said she doesn't think much will change in America until more white people view the video of Floyd's death the way that African Americans do.

"I think white people have to first admit that this is actually happening. And I think it can be hard thing for people to admit, 'Maybe I was wrong about this. Maybe I could have seen that differently. Maybe (Colin) Kaepernick taking a knee really didn't have anything to do with the flag and he wasn't disrespecting the country,'" she said, referring to the former NFL player who was pushed out of the league after he was ridiculed by President Donald Trump and his supporters.

"He (Kaepernick) was trying to get us to see exactly what we see in this particular incident," she said.

She said until a majority of the country's white citizens speak out, the legacy of 400 years of racism in America will continue.

"It's not about guilt. It's not about blame. But it is about acknowledgement, acknowledging that this is actually happening, it doesn't just happen to that person that you categorize as a thug."
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