EDITOR’S UPDATE, june9.2020: A heads up: since posting this video to Facebook on Sunday morning, May 31, it has gone mini-viral, as T.C.’s passionate, unvarnished voice resonated far and wide. The video has been viewed more than 117,000 times on Facebook; shared almost 2,500 times; and has almost 200 comments on my original FB post. On Youtube, it has been viewed more than 6,000 times. And this post you are reading has been read close more than 10,000 times. I note all of this not to toot our own horn (well, maybe a tiny ‘tweet-tweet!’). but just to highlight something: What T.C. Clemons has to say looks like it needed to be heard.
may31.2020 | Just watch this video below.
WestVirginiaVille chief videographer Bobby Lee Messer and I covered a rally in Ritter Park in Huntington, WV on Saturday, in protest of the killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past week. We have a conventional video story to post later today on the rally.
But as we began interviewing folks, black and white, I overheard a cheerful, older African-American woman, thanking a group of us white folks sitting at a table for attending the rally.
She turned out to be T.C. Clemons, a teacher at Huntington’s Highlawn Elementary School. She was Cabell County Teacher of the Year in 2019, and a finalist for Teacher of the Year in the state of West Virginia.
We pulled her aside and framed her up. We expected to get a minute or two of her observations on the never-healed wound of racism in America, inflamed again by four police officers in the middle of the country.
The tape rolled. And rolled. Bobby Lee and I were riveted. T.C.—the initials stand for ‘Too Cute,’ she said—proceeded to speak truth to this moment in America, a moment of violence and subjugation to which this country keep returning and returning and returning.
We decided to share this unedited, single take with you as quickly as we could get it out. NOTE: It includes the “N“ word, uncensored, which T.C. uses twice. You will see, and hear, why.
Our heartfelt wish is that you watch this clip all the way through. Then, share it forward, unaltered, to your social media networks, either as a video (see links below), audio or text file.
T.C. Clemons has been a beloved teacher for more than 40 years. May her words inspire education, conversation, action, and transformation.
~ Douglas John Imbrogno | Editor, WestVirginiaVille.com
NOTE: You are free to use this video file and the links and content below, as you see fit, but without any change to them. We ask that you use the credit: Used courtesy of WestVirginiaVille.com. We are releasing this clip into the wild under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND license. This license allows re-users to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only and for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
YOUTUBE VIDEO LINK: youtu.be/KZ1GkfElt10
SOUNDCLOUD audio file: soundcloud.com/douglaseye/what-needs-to-be-said-about-george-floyds-murder
TEXT: See below.
TEXT FROM VIDEO from Saturday, May 30, 2020 interview with T.C. Clemons at Rally for George Floyd in Ritter Park, Huntington WV:
VOICEOVER: Many an American city is aflame this weekend. Protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis came to Ritter Park in Huntington, West Virginia, in a peaceful rally and march.
WestVirginiaVille chief videographer Bobby Lee Messer and I were out to cover the event. We interviewed an African American woman named TC Clemons. She’s a teacher at Highland Elementary in Huntington, and was the 2019 Cabell County Teacher of the Year and a runner up for Teacher of the Year in the state. We were expecting to pull perhaps a 60-second quote from our interview. But as she spoke, both Bobby Lee and I were transfixed. We just let the tape roll. What she said is what I think we all need to hear tonight, tomorrow and the day after.
T.C. CLEMONS: To treat people differently simply because of the color of their skin is not acceptable. And it hurts. I’m 64 years old, and I remember the first incidents of racism at seven years old. My mom and I walking to a hospital on the back road. And a little girl running to the fence that was playing in the yard, ran up to the fence and said: “Look, mommy! Niggers!”
And immediately, my mom grabbed my hand and we quickly walked away. We never talked about it, but I knew it wasn’t something good. But even older, in my 50s, I’m at the beach, and my sister and I are driving back to where we are staying. And this young group of college students—males, white males—start hollering: ‘Niggers!’ I mean, just as loud as they could.
And my oldest sister had this look in her eyes that terrified me. And when I mean terrified me, I knew she was not going to let that stop there. And my five-year-old nephew was sitting in the backseat, wondering what’s going on?! My sister proceeds to get closer and closer to the bumper of that truck. And I’m telling her: “No, we are not going to follow them.”
But at that point, she didn’t want to hear it because she was hurt . But she was more furious that: ‘You’re screaming this! Screaming this out and we’ve done nothing to you!” And I told her: “We cannot follow. Because what if they follow us? We follow them and they lead us to a dead end.” But then my sister says: “I have something.” And I was like, oh, now I’m really scared. Because I don’t know what that something is. But she was to that point of: ‘I am SO sick and tired of this, that I need to do something! And if it means that someone’s going to be hurt, then I NEED to do something, because THIS has to stop!’
But, prayerfully. she heard my voice. And I said we cannot continue to follow them. And she stopped and went in a different direction.
But what hurts is that—how does that still happen? What did we do to them to cause them to target us and say that? And then there’s my nephew in the backseat wondering: ‘What’s going on?!’ Because the whole atmosphere has changed—the whole atmosphere. I mean, it made me, like, literally sick to my stomach. And that night, I didn’t cry just for me and my sister …. But I cried for my nephew, because he is black and he is going to have more problems than my sister and I would have.
Why? Why is that necessary? Why can’t you know me past the color of this? (Taps the flesh of her hand) Why do you always see this? Why? And why are we still doing this at 64-years-old? Why?!
I mean, you just get to a point where you’re tired. You’re … you’re just tired. My ancestors went through it. My grandmother went through it. My mom went through it. I went through it. I have a son—one of the best sons in the whole wide world—he has been through it. And he just happens to look a little bit like you. But that doesn’t make a difference—the shade of our skin. He was followed into where he lives. And asked: ‘Where you going?” Stopped by a policeman. And he says: “This is where I live!” Why did the police, then, feel it necessary to stop my son?
We’re tired. We’re tired! And change has to start now. And we can’t just no longer talk about it. We have to do something about it.
And what happened to George Floyd was wrong. And it was wrong the very minute it happened. It shouldn’t have taken rioting. It shouldn’t have taken that much anger, to have someone say, “Oh, yes, it was murder.” It should NEVER have taken that.
But the frustration of our people is so deep that when no one does what’s right, and everybody is watching it, you just lose it. I don’t condone violence. but it has been so built up, the mistreatment of us because of our color, that you just really get tired. And it’s time for change. And our policemen—they need more sensitivity training.
And until you are born into this skin, all you can do is empathize and sympathize. Because you will never, ever know the experiences that we feel on a daily basis.
I am educated! I am a child of God! I do nothing but love! But that does not stop people from looking at just my color. It does not stop them. They see that first and then they judge. But you don’t even know who I am.
And another thing—I’m the one that your kids come to when they can’t talk to you. I am the one that wipes the tears from their eyes. I am the one that speaks life into them when they don’t know that there’s any life for them. Me! And they don’t see my color. They see ‘Mrs. TC.’ They see my love! They don’t see my color. And we have to—at one point—not see color. But at another point, we have to see color, because this will continue to happen.
And not only that, it will continue to get worse. And a nation divided will fall. And we cannot … We cannot fall! Because that encompasses the whole world. We cannot fall.
And so we have to do more than just talk. Come live with me. Come walk with me. Come feel with me. Come acknowledge that what I’m feeling is for real. Just just come do that. And then maybe you’ll have a different perception of racism and why you feel it’s okay to look at the color of my skin and totally forget my heart.
~ “A Saturday of Protest in Huntington WV”: What it’s like to be a black man in Trump’s America. Why communal effort is needed. How racism is woven into “the American quilt.” PART 2 of our coverage of a Huntington WV rally protesting the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
~ “They Know Who the Thugs Are”: Within the police department itself, there are some thugs and gangsters, says Rev. Matthew Watts. “And the police have to police themselves. They know who the thugs are! They know who the gangsters are!”
~ “WATCH THIS: What Needs to be Said About George Floyd’s Murder”: We were looking for a quote at a Huntington, West Virginia rally in protest of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis policemen. We got far more than a quote.