By Scarlett Birge, student news writer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – “Life is different when you’re a person of color,” Jasmine Barnett, director of Church Outreach and FIRST CLASS and associate campus minister, said at Campbellsville University’s first Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) of the semester on Sept. 15.
Barnett spoke of facing prejudice and discrimination early in her childhood when her schoolteachers questioned her abilities and intelligence.
“I didn’t even get a chance initially,” she said. She said her white friends quickly got spots in the gifted and talented program, but she was still being doubted when she was named to the program.
“My education is important to me,” she said. Barnett was salutatorian at Green County High School and spoke of how many people tried to dispute her achievement. “Simply because of my skin color, they questioned me,” she said.
She spoke about facing issues like this even through her college education where she would apply for jobs and her white friends would get call backs when she wouldn’t even though they were equally qualified.
“Growing up my mom taught me some lessons I didn’t really understand at the time,” Barnett said about having to learn the expectations of people trying to hold her back due to racism.
“Life is going to be difficult,” she said. “I need to learn how to navigate it as a black female. There are stereotypes that people already have in mind about me.”
Barnett spoke of her experiences facing racism in her ministry work when she went to a church in Liberty, Ky. in 2006. She was worried about being able to complete the service but said that once she started talking to the people, who had been unsettled about her speaking, they found everything was okay.
“I realized I can’t have preconceived notions about them, and they can’t have preconceived notions about me,” she said.
She spoke about how she got “the talk” about being black when she was 13 and how it is still essential to who she is today. She talked about how her parents told her to be aware of her surroundings and watch the way she acted, especially when she started driving.
“Here’s the process when you get pulled over: hands on the wheel, etc. My friends didn’t understand that,” she said about the danger and fear black people face.
“They didn’t get why when I saw a cop I said, ‘now stop joking, turn the music down, and act like you have some sense.’ A white person doesn’t get that.” Barnett spoke about how those moments could mean life or death to a black person.
She spoke about how she can’t react to certain things because it will be turned against her. “If I react I’m always going to be wrong. I’m always going to come off as the angry one,” she said while telling multiple stories of encountering microaggressions and blatant racism in everyday life.
“It’s important to be in places of influence,” Barnett said about how Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University, addressed the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer and announced the university’s new diversity policy program which included giving her a position on the Administrative Council, the first person of color to be on the council, and the COVID-19 Steering Committee. “I have a lot of respect for him,” she said.
“In 2020 you would think that racial relations would be much better,” she said, “I really think it’s a lack of education.”
Barnett showed pictures of her at the Lincoln Memorial earlier in the year standing in the same spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. “His dream still isn’t fulfilled,” Barnett said.
She showed several pictures and videos of black people in history such as Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, The Little Rock Nine, as well as more recent victims of police brutality such as Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, along with many others.
“I think [the murdering of black people] continues to happen because of patterns of ignorance, a pattern of un-education, and a pattern of people being silent,” she said.
Barnett quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
She said all of these killings could be avoided, but hate is taught and it holds people back from moving forward. “We have to get in the cycle where we stop teaching hate, we stop teaching stereotypes. We need activism, and we need reform,” she said.
“We need to come to a point of reconciliation. We won’t get to a point of reconciliation until we’re willing to talk about white privilege,” she said.
Barnett gave resources of books, podcasts and sermons on racism and addressing white privilege. Among some of those resources were books White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and podcasts “The Diversity Gap” hosted by Bethaney Wilkinson and “Code Switch” from NPR.
“Don’t stay ignorant; grow your knowledge,” she said.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 11,900 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.
Campbellsville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificates, associate, baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Campbellsville University.