• Lucia Joyce

In My Experience

I have lived in small Alberta towns, Edmonton and Vancouver, Canada. I lived in New York (Queens, Harlem, and Brooklyn) for 7 years, Los Angeles for 3.5. I've spent weeks at a time in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee. I've done some traveling--been to 48/50 states (not including airports), Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, as well as bits of Europe (more east than west), South America, and Asia.

If you absorb any single sentence from this post, let it be the following: I have never once, felt truly threatened or endangered around an African American person. Not once.

I've felt danger plenty of times... I've been stalked on walks to the subway after work late at night. I've been near escalated tensions in seedy neighborhoods. I've been creeped on and spoken to lewdly, and flashed. I've been bullied for no reason, even chased after on my bike and followed in my car on the freeway for several miles. In almost every incident I can think of at this moment, the person at the helm of danger or discomfort was actually white. But I wouldn't blame the danger vibes on 'whiteness'... I would blame it on subtle psychological things... like the influence of drugs or alcohol, or just a weird, creepy, suppressed anger vibe... the kind of thing you get used to avoiding.

On the contrary, I have witnessed a great deal more of unimaginable kindness everywhere: people who don't even speak English but still manage to help me on my way; people who put great care and attention into their small businesses and public dealings; people who politely mention the rules I've unknowingly broken or the ways I can better protect myself from crime; curious, open people wanting to share their stories or talents and hear about mine; people just trying to support their families and live well. When I take an honest look back at every more-than-passing interaction I've had with an African American person, I think of several people who have taught me self-acceptance, respect, inner peace, artistic and mental discipline, generosity, faith, and dedication; people who genuinely believe in and support the idea of a better world for their children; people with a vested interest in honoring even the hardest parts of history and moving toward equality for everyone. This is not a plea to be considered un-racist because I have black friends. This is a genuine admiration and celebration of black courage, strength, intelligence, and community--all of which continually leave me humbled and deeply educated.

You know what I think? I think people are mostly nice. I think people in every place in the world I've ever been to, are mostly friendly and well-intentioned. Increasingly, I feel a deep connection with the art and culture around me and a willingness to embrace people's uniqueness more than differences. I definitely think making my living as an artist has given me a higher perspective. Though not 'perfect' and endlessly evolving, the dance and theatre and music world is certainly more focused on nurturing self expression and discipline and reverence, not racism, homophobia, xenophobia, or any other useless bias.

Sadly, I have seen a lot more oppression of good folks by bigoted ones. On my first trip to LA when I was 15, I was in a McDonalds on Hollywood Boulevard, waiting for a sudden flood of rain to pass. A young black man sat down at a table by himself, and a white woman two tables down moved her purse to the other side of her. He looked her straight in the eye and said, "I'm not gonna steal your purse. I'm just waiting for my food." She rolled her eyes, clutched her purse and left. I was 15, from rural, white, Canadian oil country. That tiny experience helped me understand what First Nations people go through in whitewashed Canadian towns, and helped me put my unnecessary fear in check. Since then, I have been lucky not to witness any difficult police dealings, but I have witnessed blatant racism, sexism, and homophobia on tours through US towns, Malaysia and the Middle East, and even in personal family/friend connections. That sh*t is pervasive and systemic and has never once failed to shock me, and it truly worsened after Trump took office. The air in our small town tour stops changed. The news became a polarizing distraction from true humanity.

Refusing to treat people with decency when they have committed no acts of crime or harm... on what level is that ever helping anything? It's just the fodder that comes from fear. The petty, school-kid, name-calling kind of fear some people never outgrew.

I have lived with, toured with, worked with, trained with, and befriended people of every color, gender, and sexual orientation. So far I haven't met a single person who doesn't seem worthy of love, shelter, support, wealth, and basic human decency. Not one. Everyone is working through their traumas and challenges and toxicities and shitty systemic teachings. Everyone started out in unbiased innocence and probably only ever sought simple care and joy until life got complicated. No one deserves to be targeted by an organization hired to protect all human life, and if you truly disagree, now is a better time than ever to look inward at your own traumas, mistakes, and outdated paradigms.

Yes, this is just one person's account of the world, but it's an honest one, unlike so many sweeping generalizations and propaganda-like proclamations that lump people into 'good' and 'bad' groups to fuel the power-hungry.

There's a simpler way to wade through all the chaos and nonsense and frustrating news out there. Sift through your own, true experiences, including your taught biases. Put yourself in any other person's shoes for a few moments a day. There are people propagating hate, and anger, and war, and most notably, fear, and there are people on a higher vibration, engaging by nonviolent protest, legal, inspired action, open, human-focused dialogue, and loving, kind intention. There are silent people, ignoring everything too. There are people trying to capitalize on the world's attention at a controversial time. Lashing out at them, in my experience, is a waste of time and energy--valuable resources we need in the continued journey to challenge injustice and spread awareness and human decency.

If you can manage it, don't give in to fear when you watch the news highlights. Don't fall back on taught prejudice. Give in to kindness. Give in to empathy. Give in to not having all the answers but wishing better intentions upon the abused and marginalized. If you are overwhelmed, take in art with a social statement outside of your usual wheelhouse. Ask someone in earnest what you can do. Listen to your heart and the hearts of the people you love and respect who are doing good work on the ground or in the airwaves, and stop listening so fervently to the mainstream news, most of which is paid for by powerful billionaires. Put your trust in the innate good of people, not made-up, media-fueled suspicion or ignorant tweets.

I have never once regretted being kind and willing to learn more, but that's just my experience.

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