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Cathilea Robinett grew up in California's Humboldt County — rural, predominantly white and a place she admired growing up. Helen Thomas Cook lived next to Cathilea's grandmother. The two women were best friends, and Helen would come to Cathilea's family's house each Sunday. Helen was warm, kind and considered part of the family. Helen was also Black.

Cathilea's stepfather was an "Archie Bunker" of his time, close-minded to things he did not know. Cathilea always had a tense relationship with him because of this, which only worsened as she went on to experience the vast, diverse world that existed beyond Humboldt County. However, it eventually got to a point where Cathilea could no longer accept the dissonance between them: the day she brought home her fiancé Henry, a Black jazz musician. 

Cathilea pulled her stepfather aside that day and explained that just as they loved Helen and welcomed her into the family, despite her skin color, they could also do the same for her new fiancé. Her stepfather never again mentioned the color of Henry's skin. In that moment, Cathilea learned that familiarity, understanding and acceptance are deeply intertwined.

Unfortunately, that was not the last time that Cathilea saw or experienced racism. As our country struggles with racial injustice and equality, Cathilea leans on the lesson she learned years ago. She reminds herself, "Racism isn't a political issue. It is a human issue." She reminds herself of the amazing people who have shown kindness and compassion, despite how others may treat them.

Listen to this special episode of "In The Arena" to discover more about Cathilea's travels across the nation, her time in the American Conservatory Theater's Young Actors Program, and her understanding that we all want to be respected, admired and loved.

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