“Come on, man!”
My co-worker plead with me as we drove to our destination. We both worked for a home healthcare company for disabled people in the Dayton area. Both of us were staff members in a particular house located in Dayton that had three adult occupants at the time. To protect my co-worker’s identity, I’ll call him “Shawn” in this article/op-ed.
One of the directives from our supervisors was to have our clients, all of them with developmental disabilities, interact with the public as often as possible. So, Shawn and I were supposed to take our guys to a facility in West Carrolton, where a dance/event would be held for a large group of people from the DD population. We had to get them there at a specific time, and also leave at a certain time. Both Shawn and I had done this before, so, it would be a cinch. The only real ‘difficulty’ would be the drive, as we had to drive the clients from Dayton to West Carrolton, which, depending on traffic, can be sort of a long drive. I thought the length of the trip would be the issue.
The trip itself was the problem.
As we drove on the highway toward West Carrolton, I saw Shawn start to look uneasy. And, he got more uneasy as we got closer to West Carrolton. When we got off the highway, and exited into city limits, Shawn started to squirm and contort in the passenger seat, as if he was in pain.
I asked him what was wrong. He replied to me, “Man, we’re going into West Carrolton. I never go to West Carrolton! I don’t like leaving Dayton.”
As he spoke to me, I saw something that startled me. It was fear. Fear coming from Shawn. Fear, coming from a guy because he was scared of leaving the confines of the Dayton area, which was his turf, for the unknown of West Carrolton, a town that exists in the same county as Dayton. But, even though his reaction shocked me, there were two other things that floored me.
1. Shawn was easily 6’5”, 220lbs plus. And yet, he was in the fetal position because of a trip.
2. This happened in 2014. Not 1954. 2014.
Dayton’s biggest problem in 2020 isn’t its lack of jobs, or a mask ordinance. It’s the city’s decades’ old racism. It’s the second most segregated city in Ohio, and has one of the most segregated school districts in the country. If you aren’t a fan of stats and data, ask around on the street within the city, and by extension, the rest of the Miami Valley. The views of the Dayton area are not flattering.
Dayton cannot move forward with any positive changes unless its years of social and economic separatism are changed. Full stop. The city can’t ask new (to the area) corporations and innovators to put down roots in a city that actually may not welcome them if they are non-White, or White with more liberal views. There has to be frank discussions with key city people of power about fixing the social ills of the Dayton metro area. Only then can work start on a rebuild of the city.
Fixing Dayton’s racial issues can start work on the Miami Valley as a whole. (This entire region needs it) Because, no citizen should ever feel like Shawn did that day.
Unfortunately, many of us who are Black have been Shawn, while living in this area.
I know I have.