HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — In light of everything that's happening in our community, 13WMAZ wants to offer space in our newscast and on our website for people to offer perspective and hope.
We know how important communication is at this moment in time so change can occur. We are calling these segments "Crucial Conversations."
Rashaad Bolton is from Houston County and says he did experience racial bias and discrimination growing up, especially when it came to dating.
"An 8th grader or 9th grader shouldn't have to explain their self-worth to somebody's parents. They shouldn't have to explain why they deserve a chance to be with their son or daughter just because of their color," he says.
Bolton recently took to Facebook to thank his now-fiancee's family for always accepting and supporting his relationship with Jaucelynn Hickam. They started dating during their senior year of high school.
Bolton wrote: "You and your family have been indescribably wonderful, caring, sweet, and most importantly aware. Aware of what may be offensive to me and going out of the way to remove/filter whatever it may be. I thank each of you for bringing me in with open arms."
"Yes, his skin is a different color," says Hickam's mother, "but that never ever crossed my mind. What crossed my mind was, 'Is he a good human being? Yes, he was, and yes, he is. Is he going to treat her the way she needs to be treated? Absolutely.' Those are the important things that matter."
Bolton's fiancee says their relationship wasn't always easy, especially in high school.
"I kind of had to step into Rashaad's world and I would see instances of rude comments being made and that was something really new for me," says Hickam. "I would have to talk to Rashaad about it because I knew he had a perspective that was going to help me cope with it."
Bolton has played football for four years at United States Military Academy West Point with Hickam cheering him on the whole way. He graduates Saturday and will commission into the Army. They are planning to get married on July 4th.
The couple says they are encouraged by the conversations happening around the country to end racial injustice.
"I think it's really good that we're having these conversations, because some things will change to where maybe that conversation doesn't have to be as needed," says Hickam. "That's my hope and my prayer. Rashaad has been such an awesome help and making me stay educated and aware of these realities that I might not have to face but that he faces, and what he faces, I face."
"You're not going to be able to change everybody's perspective," says Bolton. "But if you are aware of it, I would just ask that you ask yourself why. 'Why am I treating these people differently than others? Why won't I allow my son or daughter to date someone of a different race?' And if you can just have an honest conversation with yourself and just try to get to the root of where all of this racism and discrimination is coming from. You don't have to be super public about it, but just having self-reflection among yourself, I think that will help and benefit everybody."
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