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The Race Project invites Miami Valley residents to talk about their life experiences through the prism of skin color. The conversations are honest, frank yet civil.

The Race Project: Felicia Chappelle and Wendy Ricks-Hoff

James Fields IV

The WYSO Race Project invites two everyday people from the Miami Valley to talk about their life experiences through the prism of skin color. These conversations can be difficult and explore controversial views. But they also can build understanding and healing. Listened to a conversation with Fellicia Chappelle and Wendy Ricks- Hoff.

Felicia Chappelle: My name is Felicia Chappelle. I am an African-American woman. I'm an actress and a writer currently residing in the Miami Valley.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: Hi, I'm Wendy Ricks-Hoff, white. I'm a mother of two, and I work full time for a statewide coalition for crime victims advocates. Felicia, what aspect of your race makes you the most proud?

Felicia Chappelle: I like being brown. I like the way my skin is. I like the way my culture is. I like the way I move in the world. I like the way my spirit has been given to me by the Creator. I don't have to look at a lot of stuff that makes it difficult to look at whitehood. I mean, I can't stop with how much I feel pretty great about it. Wendy, you know, one thing I wonder is have you ever been the victim of discrimination?

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: Certainly not because of my skin color, not because of my race, but as a woman, 100%. I have seen discrimination, but it hasn't been directed towards me because of my skin color.

Felicia Chappelle: Who do you feel suffers from this, like, issue of American racism?

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: I do believe everybody is suffering as a human race. But the level of suffering and trauma and, you know, crimes against members of the Black community, the native indigenous people, is never going to go away. Yes, I think we're all suffering. But the level for white America, although it's real, doesn't come close. Felicia, is racism common in your community?

Felicia Chappelle: Everybody hears the word racism and they think of the most extreme, ugly thing that could happen. And it doesn't even have to be that. If we're experiencing a constriction of the heart because of our skin color, then we're living in a racist paradigm. So I feel like racism shows up in every single walk, but I don't study it all that hard. Like I'm not walking around like racist, racist, racist, racist. I don't feel that way about it at all. I just feel like, oh, my heart feels tight. And I think it's that simple.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: I really like that question, Felicia, because I actually have spent quite a bit of time struggling with this. But the reality is, is that I no longer see the white community as a safe space. That blindfold has come off and it's been difficult. I had always been aware of white people being racist for sure my whole life. But I had still this idealized view that most people weren't like that. And I don't believe that anymore. Felicia, what feelings, thoughts, reflections are you still struggling with about racism in America?

Felicia Chappelle: I think the biggest struggle for me is that it's so intensely enmeshed in the subconscious psyche. Not that I'm unaware that racism exists, of course I am. But it is shocking every time that we all have a place inside of us where that wall is. That kind of blows my mind.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: That's real difficult.

Felicia Chappelle: It is.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: Especially, when we're trying to, you know, become aware of our connections and our oneness with each other. To know that there's always going to be that hidden underneath.

Felicia Chappelle: We are so in a very early phase of trying to talk about race, like nobody likes to even say R-A-C-E as a word, altogether. It's like immediate constriction of the heart.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: I do have some hope. I see the level of awareness that both my girls have, and they are college age students now. Their willingness to speak up for things that are wrong. That makes me hopeful.

Felicia Chappelle: I think these young people, their emotional arteries are not clogged with the gunk that is the low self-esteem that racism is. They don't have that. And these young people are not experiencing what we're experiencing. And their minds are tremendously more capable of moving us out. And I always, I do think there will always be racism, but I do not think that it will dominate progress moving forward. No.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: Thank you so much, Felicia. This has been a great conversation. It's been a wonderful time.

Felicia Chappelle: Wendy, it was so tremendous. I mean, just the courage and the honesty. I really appreciate you for that.

Wendy Ricks-Hoff: I appreciate you.