Over the past few years, I’ve had my worldview shifted and shattered as I learned from Black friends, authors and leaders what my privilege looked like, through their shared glimpses of what being Black in America looks like. The most important thing I’m learning is that my role as a White woman in this conversation is to effect change where I can, speak out where I can make an impact and to pass the microphone to people of color whenever possible, in order to amplify their voices and help their perspective to be understood.
In light of that, I reached out to my friend Deon Taylor to interview him about what his lived experience of racism has been. Deon, if you’ve ever met him, is a joyful, energetic force. He’s a Mansfield resident and is the Head of Dance and Theater at The Richland School of Academic Arts, as well as a frequent performer on the stage of the Renaissance Theatre.
What has your experience of racism been like?
Racism is something I experience daily in my life. Racism can be violence, sure, but it’s also ignorance and unkind words. It’s choosing not to educate yourself with the many resources out there available to you. It’s questioning the way the Black community responds to yet another murder.
I was adopted by a White woman who adopted four Black kids and fostered six more. When I was 8 years old, there was a woman at our church who said we didn’t belong there, in her church.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was doing a Facebook Live in the park, and a man and a woman yelled “Black Queer” out their window at me.
It doesn’t just wreck me emotionally, it also makes me hurt for my students, afraid of what people are saying to them or the things they will experience.
Racism is doing or saying something that hurts a community of people, any community really. Anything we’re doing that is judging or shunning someone based off the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, anything else, is wrong.
What toll does racism take on you and your friends and family?
It’s physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. I constantly live in fear, and so many of us have extreme anxiety and depression over this.
We all can understand now the fear of going out in public and knowing that at any moment I could get a deadly illness. That’s the same fear we experience every single day of our lives, knowing that going on a run or walking my dog could get me attacked or killed on any day. It’s a throbbing fear. It’s like a headache you just can’t shake, it’s always there.
How do you wish White people responded after acts of racial violence?
It’s such a tough question, because it’s so big. I wish people could band together, not just White, not just Black. If we could all just come together, we would make a huge difference. One stone can cause an entire pond to move. We can effect change. I want more people to understand that stepping out of your comfort zone and fighting for something that is right is important and worth their time.
You don’t have to be Black to stand up for what is right, and what is just. You don’t need other people’s support, and you don’t have to have all the answers to stand up for what is right.
What would help?
I want people to put themselves in situations where we stop and look at each life and understand how we all grieve the same, how we all feel pain, how we all feel joy and happiness, how similar our experiences are and to stop and really put yourself in other people’s shoes.
If Mr. Floyd was your child, your husband, or your best friend, how would his death make you feel? What justice would you fight for? What would your emotion feel and what would you expect from others?
I really want people to view the world through the lens of love, the love we have for our families and circles, and spread that love around even if we don’t like the individual. My response to hate is always this: “You may hate me, but my love for you is going to run deeper than your hate, and I’m going to love you because that’s what you need.” Showing love to someone who does you wrong is so much more powerful than lashing back with hate.