The Race Project: Tennyson Love and Victoria Shinkle
The Race Project listens in on a conversation about race between two college students. One of them is black and one of them is white.
Editors note: (Transcript edited for clarity and length).
Tennyson: My name is Tennyson Love, I'm a fourth year at Antioch College. I'm majoring in visual digital computerized art. I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I'm black.
Victoria: My name is Victoria Shinkle. I'm a student at Antioch College. I study interpersonal communications and cultural studies. I'm from Illinois and I'm white.
Tennyson: What specific part of Illinois are you from southeastern Illinois?
Victoria: I went to college originally in Indiana Vinson's University. I dropped out of the same college that John Mellencamp dropped out a little badge of honor thing.
Tennyson: So you're a transfer student? I am. Yeah, I transferred over here from Wilberforce University.
Victoria: Can I ask a question that might be kind of silly?
Victoria: Do white people go to HBCUs? Like, were there white people there?
Tennyson: Oh yeah, that's a big misconception. Like, my first roommate at Wilberforce was white. He was the only white guy there. I never had a problem with my roommate, though, like, he was such a great guy. I mean, he was. He's a close friend of mine.
Victoria: Do you have an emotional reaction to seeing like symbols like the Confederate flag and stuff like that?
Tennyson: For example, when I go up to Zena, there's a lot of people in Xenia that are like fly flags like that, openly very pro-Trump. I would feel unsafe. What kind of emotion does it invoke in you, Victoria
Victoria: Annoyance, really? It was always funny to see the Confederate flag flying next to the Trump flag, like on the back of the trucks back when I was like a true patriot. I always thought it was just piss me off because it's like they lost. They were traitors. Do you feel comfortable in your like racial identity, you know?
Tennyson: You know, it's really funny talking about that because when I went to Wilberforce, I stayed there for two years and oftentimes they'd be like, Why are you speaking so proper? They would just criticize everything like, you dress white, you talk white, you know you, you walk funny. You know this and that.
Victoria: Like, Can I ask you? Like when people say things like that, like you act white, you talk white, like, like how that makes you feel
Tennyson: like it takes a toll on you. Like you feel like you just feel like you don't want to talk or be social and be around, be whatever. Everybody's criticizing every little detail about you at every turn, you know. So it definitely didn't make me feel good, and I felt very insecure for a very long time. And that was part of the reason why I went and I didn't really feel fully accepted at Wilberforce. All right, so, Victoria, how often do you think about your racial or ethnic identity?
Victoria: I hardly ever probably. I mean, when I am in a space in which I am like one of the few white people, which is like rare most of the time, then I start to think about it, but really hardly ever. I don't really have a reason to. I guess obviously, I benefit from privilege. Like, you know, there's like lots of things that I can do that I probably couldn't if I was a black woman. I think things will be better. Am I lame if I do the quote? The arc of time is long, but it bends toward justice, you know?
Tennyson: So what do you think is an important step that we need to make to overcome intolerance towards racial differences?
Victoria: Conversations, honest conversations. Brave conversations? One thing I tried to do, I kind of tried to talk to like conservative people. There were lots of things that we agreed on, and these people who like I straight up just thought were racist, like I just thought that they were racist. It's it's like, actually, they just don't have class consciousness. They've just been fed like a bill of goods. And once you actually start talking to them, it's something that I would expect like, you know, black people to do. But like, I think that's a really important step that white people can take is like having conversations with fellow white people, even those that they disagree with. Yeah, so, Tennison, when you look into the future and you think about like our kids, when they're our age, do you feel hopeful or do you feel hopeless about the state of race?
Tennyson: White people don't feel comfortable discussing certain things with black people, and black people don't feel comfortable discussing things with white people. And I think that discomfort in discussion is really going to be a serious barrier that the future generations are going to have to break.
Victoria: Tennyson, thank you so much for coming in and using your time to do this.
Tennyson: Absolutely. Victoria, thank you for asking me to come. This is such a great talk. I really enjoyed this is very insightful.
Victoria: And, you know, 20, 30 years from now, when we come back for the reunion, our kids can record a race project conversation as well.
The Race Project is produced by Basim Blunt at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. This conversation was edited by Community Voices producer David Seitz. For more stories from the Race Project visit wyso.org.