“When You Stick with Your Own” story transcript
Kierra McQueen: So, to start, where have you lived and how have those places affected your life?
Taylor Elam: I was in a predominately white area for most of my life, which was not an issue for me at first. But then I realized that I was different, especially going to my friend’s house and seeing their family versus mine, and how they interacted and stuff.
I just didn’t know how to interact with my family after that. Because it was such a different contrast between their family and mine, it kind of shook me up, especially since, when I realized [this], I was kind of young, around like 10 or 12 years-old. I didn’t realize the differences between black and white people. So, it was very different and it was definitely a culture shock, but I believe it shook me to be the woman I am today.
KM: How was in a [sic!] school setting, other than the outside life?
TE: For the most part, the little bit of black people that were at my school we kind of stuck together and definitely, like, built our own little community in the school, which was good. I feel like it was more segregated more than anything in the school, like, white people stuck with white people, and black people stuck with black people, and that was different to see, because I go on to my high school and it’s more, like, mixed, with everybody interacting. So that was a different contrast and it was definitely an adjustment.
But like I said, when I was in a predominantly white school versus being in a mixed area, I was anxious, especially when your friends weren’t there, especially if you don’t have anyone to talk to.
KM: And so, at any point during grade school, high school, middle school, elementary, did you ever see maybe any interaction between the two or was it just always kind of segregated, kind of, how you put it? Was anyone trying to make a change to come together or…, you know?
TE: It was mostly segregating, you know, up until high school. That’s when everyone had hormones and stuff, and obviously people will hook up with other people, and that’s when you see more interaction.
Also, pop culture is different, you know, a lot of rap is in the forefront of pop culture, so a lot of times kids will be coming up to you and asking you, “oh, have you heard this song?” and stuff. And that’s how people will bond and come together, which is good, I think so.
KM: Okay, next question, so [uhm] do you have any specific group of people or someone as an individual who has influenced your life? And has it affected you?
TE: [Uhm] I’d say my dad has influenced my life a lot. I’d say he influenced my life a lot, because I talk to him almost every day and he gives me a lot of advice as far as money, and schooling, and how to stay on track, how to get our money together, and how to be successful in my life. So, I think that’s a good thing, my dad is a really great person to talk to. He has been working his whole life which is good and it inspires me to be a hard worker, too, because he has been at his job for over 20 years working, and I think that takes a lot of hard work and discipline. And that is definitely an inspiration to me.
KM: Oh, okay, what do you want as a personal goal? Or what do you want others to know about your identity?
TE: I want people to understand that I am a strong woman, who is also smart and intelligent, knows myself and knows my culture, and I wanna give back to my community. And I also want them to know that I am a black woman who is very, very, very, very into my culture, and wants to show everybody about my culture.
KM: Okay cool, so another question, and we can kind of wrap this up. How has the sociopolitical and economic environment around you where you have grown up affected you?
TE: My parents weren’t so into politics, but I did realize the social economic status between the both of them. We’re different – my mom, she was a lower middle class and my dad was an upper middle class. So, I got to see both sides of being well taken care of, but also going through rough times at some times.
And I know that I was on food stamps for a little bit when I was in middle school, and that kind of sucked. But also, my dad, he was able to help us out sometimes and help us get food in the house sometimes, because sometimes we weren’t able to have food. […] Having that other parent there that was a little bit more well off, they’d help a lot.
KM: Yeah, uh-huh, definitely. I also wanted to ask you, so, can you describe a time or a story where you felt constrained by power structures, or how have you overcome these constraints – like, have you ever had to deal with a situation and you kind of felt like you were out of place or…?
TE: Yup, so I remember one day I was getting out my driver’s training class and I needed a notebook. So I went over next door to a CVS Pharmacy to get a notebook and a pencil, ‘cause you need to get them to write notes for the class, because you need to write notes to pass it [sic!]. So, I go in there, and I’m looking for a notebook, and the store manager comes up to me and shows me an empty mascara card, and he asked me, like, basically he just stares at me and looks at me, and I’m like, “What?” Then he goes, “you know what this means, right?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He was like, “Did you take this mascara?” I’m like, “I was never even over there, I’ve been looking at the notebook section this whole time, what are you talking about?”
Then he stares at me for a little bit, and then he goes, he starts laughing and says, “I was just kidding.” Like, I was just… “Some people try to steal out of here and I was just trying to see if you’re one of those people,” [he said.] And I’m like, “No! I literally just walked in here!”
So, I had to pay for my stuff and basically hurry out of there. And I remember I walked all the way across the street to McDonald’s, because I did not feel comfortable waiting there for my dad to pick me up, so I had to go all the way across the street, walk and wait in a whole different area, because I didn’t feel comfortable in that store.
KM: And so, do you feel like you were singled out because, you know, being a black woman?
TE: Oh, yeah, definitely, definitely. I feel like I was singled out because I was a black woman, because other people were over there looking at mascara and stuff, and he didn’t say nothing to them, but he came all the way over to me when I was in the notebook section, not even near the mascara, to talk to me about something. And I don’t even get that, so, yeah…
KM: Right. Ok, so we are wrapping up this podcast and I just wanna say thanks to Taylor for her input and willingness to answer these questions.