As Told To Zahara Hill

Lillian Corpening-Morgan is a high school sophomore from Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about illustration, writing and advocacy. She doesn’t know which career path she wants to pursue quite yet. When it’s all said and done, she just wants to be able to buy all the books her heart desires and live happily.

At first, I felt really bad. Who am I to not be friends with someone because of what they believe?

In the school that I go to now, it’s very privileged. And while it is somewhat mixed with different ethnicities, it is mostly white. And it gets hard to hear things that feel insensitive, so I struggle to balance relationships outside of my race sometimes.

I think it was right after I saw the George Floyd video, and I was just very emotional and it was really on my mind. And I was discussing that with another Black student, who’s my friend, and we were just both very, very upset and emotional. And I remember this other student said, “I don’t understand what is such a big deal. The police were just doing their job.”

And I just couldn’t get over that. I was devastated and I was upset and I was just shocked. I find that they care less because it’s not directly affecting them. They’ve never had to understand the fear.

It’s not like we’re having disagreements over pizza toppings. This is over someone’s life. And it’s someone who looks like me, acts like me, has a similar family background. If you can’t understand that this is wrong as a person, then I’m sorry. I hope you do well, but we cannot be friends.

Lillian Corpening-Morgan
Courtesy of Lillian Corpening-Morgan
Lillian Corpening-Morgan

I have some friends who I know for a fact are most likely, from some conversations, Republican or more moderate-leaning, and I’ve never had an issue with that. As long as you can agree that the basic things are right or wrong, then I have no interest in what we may also disagree on.

Recently, I’ve been giving a classmate of mine — who is very Fox News, very aggressive — I’ve been giving him Black literature, and I’ve been giving it to him and he’s reading it. I tell him, “You read this and annotate it and get back to me.”

I love to read. I read a book a day. The last books I read outside of school were “The Art of Being Normal” and “Sense and Sensibility.”

Anyway, I trust all of the people I surround myself with now.

I actually went to my first protest after George Floyd’s killing, and it was scary because we could see a police officer stationed, ready to get violent, and that freaked me out. I didn’t want to go in the first place, but my mom said it would be a good experience.

Thankfully, it was peaceful. Even though it took place during COVID, we did our best to be safe while we were there.

But the pandemic has worsened my anxiety. It actually led me to get medicine for it. I’d already had social anxiety and generalized anxiety. I just feel like that grew.

On top of that, police brutality was still happening and everyone was still being slightly racist and saying terrible things to me, but saying, “Oh, but you’re different.” I’m not. I’m not an exception. Even though I’m smart and I’m kind, these other people were smart and they were kind and they still ended up dead.

It’s disappointing that we’re still living this way and that there’s still not enough change happening.