Blakely Thornton on being a creative of colour in contemporary America
The Ludlow House member, CiViL Jewelry CEO and Slick Woods business partner shares his personal account of what it means to be Black in the current US climate
As told to Dayna Southall Images by Tawni Bannister Saturday 10 October, 2020 Short read
‘The death of yet another unarmed Black man sparked outrage, anguish and devastation among the Black community and around the globe. It brought back the debate of racism found not only on the surface of society, but also hidden behind boardrooms and courthouses – and this needs to change. From when I first entered the world of business, I’ve always been the only person of colour in the room. And while the businesses may have changed over the years, the ratio and colours never did. I don’t see Black males and I don’t see Black dominance. Even though, as a man, I had more of a voice in the office, it wasn’t nearly as close to those of my White counterparts. Was it education? Was it our demeanour? No, it all boiled down to the systemic racism built and constructed into American society.
‘I’ve been reading a lot of books lately, educating myself on what’s been going on from an emotional level on both sides during this complex time. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and went to prep school. I was for very much of my life the only Black person in White spaces. Racism has never gone anywhere, it’s just shifted to a more insidious thing. I often sit and look back to the 1970s and 1980s when it was OK to have some outward, blatant prejudice. And I think what people don’t realise now is that racism is not a conscious act of bigotry towards somebody that you say you hate. Racism is a system that is firmly ingrained into every aspect of American culture. We could be walking down the street or at work – wherever a Black man or woman goes we’re looked at differently and treated differently, and left questioning: why can’t we be treated the same?
‘With the upcoming election looming, I hope Americans and society start viewing us as peers and members of society, and not someone who’s looking for a handout. In 2021, I hope people are going to see us as equals – not as someone to be helped. I would like to have a seat at the table, and if it is not going to be given, I’ll build my own. But with this election set to be one of the wildest ones for a long time, it’s imperative that Americans vote and see the importance of how the people in power can change the narrative, and build a space for Black people in society.’