Google Immerse VR | Racial Identity: Clayton’s Story 360º VR Video

[instrumental music] Clayton: I came out
to San Francisco and it took me a long time
to find a friend group. I came out right away
and met cool people but it took me a minute to find
the people who are my people. And somewhere along the lines,
I met the Radical Faeries. People I loved and cared about
and looked up to did handicrafts. You know, I grew up spending a lot of time
at my grandma’s house, which was in southern Illinois and was rural and farmland and super poor and 100% white. I love my grandma.
She taught me so much. And then also taught me these
other things that are not useful in the world
that I walk through today. So this is Ashley, Illinois. Oh, this was a great place
to grow up. Lots of freedom–I can ride
around on my own. There were a few other kids,
but not many. So I spent a lot of time
at my grandma’s foot. She would sit
in her favorite chair and watch baseball and crochet. And I would unroll her skeins
of yarn into yarn balls for her to crochet with. And I was fascinated with it and I would watch her crochet and eventually, she taught me
how to crochet. My dad hated that. He’d come pick me up at the end
of the summer and say, “No yarning, right?
Clay better not be yarning.” My grandma and I would do
laundry here in the Laundromat. Little grocery store,
beauty salon. A bank. And then on the other side here
is the candy factory. My dad worked here and the candy factory shut down
before I was born. We would play around
these water towers here. This was probably the most fun
place to place. Lots to climb on. Yeah. So 15 years later,
it’s a little quieter. Little bit. So I think it’s important for me
to have grown up here, to know that, you know, a lot of the stereotypes
about poor folk are not true. Poor folk aren’t stupid. Poor folk aren’t lazy. Poor folk are some of the most
resourceful and supportive folks that I’ve ever seen
in my life. These are people I love
and people who I admire and look up to and helped me
shape the world in lots of positive ways. But these are also the folks who
I heard the first N-word from. Right, I heard the first,
you know, some of the most racially toxic
language from. Everyone around here was poor. But still,
there was this sense of… “Gosh, if I’m really poor, at least I’m not
poor and black.” It’s just so complicated. And I would be so angry
with them and ashamed of them and disgusted by them
and it’s taken some time to realize that disgust
comes from me seeing that kind of racial toxicity
in my own life, in my own behaviors. I think people across lines
of racial differences do have experiences in common
when they share poverty. I think communities in poverty
are, you know, forgotten and invisiblized by the world
around them. I think it’s really important
for white folks to understand their history and really market
and acknowledge it. To understand the scripts
that we have been read to us, to identify those scripts
that we’ve picked up and kind of played out. It’s so necessary to see them
and acknowledge them to ever be able to let them go. You know, now,
whiteness, to me, means seeing that I have
real work to do with other white folks,
for us to, as much as we can, strip off the blinders
and make sure that in 30 years, people aren’t sitting here
having to make a movie about racism. Right, that would be
a real crying shame.

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