G23: Austin Smith

The Next Generation of Social Justice | with Austin Smith

Austin Smith just graduated in the class of 2020 from Bexley High School. He will be attending Ohio State University this fall to study biology and Spanish with a focus on pre-med. He’s also passionate about investing, specifically in stocks and real estate. This summer he plans to intern to learn more about the medical field.

As a child, Austin went to Columbus Montessori. That school taught him to work with others, and that’s a lesson he’s carried with him until now. Even at a young age he tried to be a leader and teach other kids how to count, and in hindsight, that feeling of wanting to help others has always been there.

In the second, fourth, and sixth grades, Austin had to undergo leg surgery because of a condition he was born with. Because of that, he was forced to use a walker. Despite this difficulty, he never let it hold him back — he was known on the playground as the cheetah, running around on four legs. He always made the most of it.

During these past few weeks, he’s been involved with numerous peaceful protests in downtown Columbus. Going to these protests made Austin feel like people were there for him, and he wanted more people to experience that feeling. He began organizing his own peaceful protests, which eventually led to the founding of the Bexley Anti-Racism Project which is completely run by Bexley graduates.

With the protests around the country, we are starting to see awareness making an impact in people’s lives. Now we are waiting for legislation to stop the perpetuation of racism and disparities in the criminal justice and healthcare systems. These protests aren’t going to last forever, but we can make long-lasting changes while they’re around.

We need to fight to end racism. We need to stop being complicit. When we see acts of racism, we can’t stand back and say that fight is not for us. And we need more education on the history of racism, something that we don’t get much of in school without opting into it. If the school system is failing our kids, take it upon ourselves to give them the education they need regarding this topic. There is only so much we can all do as individuals, but if we all do what we can, we can make a difference.

What Brett asks:

  • [02:18] Can you share with us what your early childhood looked like?
  • [03:44] Is being a leader just part of your DNA?
  • [09:49] How were you supported, or not supported, at Bexley?
  • [12:37] What was it like being a black man at Bexley and what led you to found this anti-racism project there?
  • [16:18] What is the dialogue between sports versus academics in the African-American community?
  • [22:28] What has the murder of George Floyd felt like for you?
  • [25:22] Do you think it’s possible that people will start to understand the fear Black people live with every day in this country?
  • [27:33] Can you talk about any actionable steps we need to be taking as a country?
  • [41:24] What are your thoughts on defunding the police?
  • [44:46] Is there anything else that needs to be said that we should talk about?
  • [47:07] Where is your head at when thinking about your future?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • Doing nothing is not a neutral action. Sometimes we feel that it is not our place to say or do something, but when we see wrongs in the world and say nothing about them, we are complicit in their perpetuation. If you see acts of racism, you need to be willing to speak up.