The Race Project: Dr. Christopher Cox And Dr. Judy Skillings
In this edition of The Race Project, Dr. Christopher Cox and Dr. Judy Skillings, both from Yellow Springs, reflect on the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin case in Minnesota and about police killings of African Americans.
Transcript (lightly edited for length and clarity):
Christopher Cox: My name is Dr. Christopher Cox. I am African-American. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the Deep South in the mid 50s. but I graduated in pre-med and once I graduated from medical school, I went to Wright State University, Boone School of Medicine for my residency at Miami Valley Hospital in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Judy Skillings: My name is Judy Skillings and I'm coming up on 70 in about a week. I'm white. I was raised in Massachusetts, got my doctorate in psychology when I was in my mid 30s. And so I've practiced as a psychologist mostly in this area. I'm a mother, I have a son. He's adopted, he's Black and he is the best part of my life.
Christopher Cox: Judy, I must commend you for taking on the task of raising a Black son.
Judy Skillings: Thank you.
Christopher Cox: Judy, as a white person, how do you feel about policing in America?
Judy Skillings: So I'm not "all police are bad." I'm not on "we have to do away with them." I believe the job is structured so that it does not protect my son and other people of color from the individuals that are warped and think that somehow the fact that they're afraid entitles him to murder somebody. Christopher, how did last week's verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial make you feel?
Christopher Cox: Well, I felt a sense of relief that America is finally holding policemen accountable for what they do. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Too many times we discount what we see because we want to support the police. They need to respect the citizens. They need to respect Black people. We are like second class citizens when it comes to policing.
Judy Skillings: I had this talk with my son about surviving an encounter with the police. I had been raised that the police were my friend, that they were a source of support were I ever in trouble. When my son was three or four, he'd already learned from the culture which was the more advantaged skin color. So when it came to teaching him to not die if he had an encounter with police, what a tightrope it is to try to raise a child who is respectful and I want him to believe that there's a reason to cooperate with authority. But at the same time, if you make the wrong move with a policeman, he could kill you. And you must not do that. Christopher, are you optimistic when you think about the future of race relations in America?
Christopher Cox: Sadly, I'd have to say no, I am not optimistic. Donald Trump brought that to bear. I think he uncovered a scab in this country, and I think it's based on, to me, some smoldering feelings that I think white America has toward people of color. And so white America doesn't want to give up anything because then we're going to be taking their stuff. And I think putting that type of language out there that my progress is reverse discrimination, I'll never get anywhere because now you're not going to allow me to have the opportunity to be equal. Reparations is a good example. My grandfather was a sharecropper, and his parents were slaves. He had a third grade education, raised nine children, never got on welfare. I made it through his legacy. We are in a bad situation in this country because, you know, white people think we want something from them. We just want to equal opportunity.
Judy Skillings: Thank you so much, Christopher, I've enjoyed getting to know this little slice of who you are.
Christopher Cox: Well, the pleasure's all mine. I really wanted to engage with another person in the medical profession. And I really appreciate, you know, the interaction that we had.
Judy Skillings: Thanks, me too.
The Race Project is produced at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.