West Carrollton interracial couple’s Facebook post about small-town racism goes viral

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

West Carrollton interracial couple’s Facebook post about small-town racism goes viral.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Since the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, a movement to end systematic racism has erupted all over the world. The Black Lives Matter movement has also taken shape in the Dayton region, where protests and demonstrations have paved the way for change within the community. Now, more than ever, difficult conversations surrounding racism are being had around the community.

One local couple’s Facebook post about racism has gotten international attention.

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On June 20, Pam and Walter Chandler, an interracial couple from West Carrollton, made a Facebook post that detailed all of the struggles that they face as an interracial couple living in the Dayton area. A few weeks later, the post has been seen and shared by nearly 130,000 people, many of whom can relate to the struggles of being an interracial couple.

“I literally receive emails and messages daily from all across the globe,” Pamela Chandler told this news organization. “After I shared my story, I never expected it to go past my personal page, you know? It's been shared so much by so many people. People are reaching out to me from New Zealand, China, India, Australia...”

In the post, Pamela, who is white, goes through a list of struggles that she and her husband, Walter, who is black, face on a nearly daily basis, from fearing for her husband’s safety as he drives home late at night after working second shift to dealing with the subtle racism they say exists in their own neighborhood in West Carrollton.

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In the comments of the post and via private messages and emails, Pamela and her husband, Walter, have received hundreds of messages from other interracial couples around the world. Nearly all of them directly related to the idea of subtle racism existing in communities across the country.

Subtle racism is embedded in the language and actions of white people who may not even realize that they are being racist, Pamela said.

“Here's what I find about Ohio— there's a lot of subtle racism,” said Pamela. “It's low-key, subtle racism that exists that people don't realize is happening. It’s call my 45-year-old husband ‘boy.’ It’s saying the word ‘colored’ to refer to a person of color.”

It’s this subtle racism, like being pulled over by the police if Walter is driving or being forced to produce a receipt after leaving each store with a cart full of groceries that the couple says has forced them to live a completely different life than that of a white couple.

Pamela and Walter Chandler's Facebook post detailing their struggles as an interracial couple goes viral, gaining international recognition during the Black Lives Matter movement. Walter is pictured with the couple’s daughter Jasmine. CONTRIBUTED / DAN NICHOLS PHOTOGRAPHY
Pamela and Walter Chandler's Facebook post detailing their struggles as an interracial couple goes viral, gaining international recognition during the Black Lives Matter movement. Walter is pictured with the couple’s daughter Jasmine. CONTRIBUTED / DAN NICHOLS PHOTOGRAPHY

“I've spent the majority of my life as a white person who's always given the benefit of the doubt, so it was such a stark contrast to what I encountered with Walter,” Pamela said. “He is automatically perceived as guilty, and so he has to take steps to get himself into position where he would not get into trouble. I don't think it's a rare thing, and I think that’s what the majority of the feedback has been to me... This is happening in every city. I mean, according to my inbox, even every country.”

For Walter, who is from the Bronx in New York City, this version of small-town living has forced him to completely change the way he interacts with people as a form of self-preservation, he said. Before moving here, the couple lived in Washington Court House, Pamela’s hometown.

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“When I moved from New York, we moved to a small farm town in Ohio and I was shocked by the lack of diversity,” Walter said. “I’m from The Bronx, so a train ride every day means I crossed paths with at least 50 different races and cultures. I met a lot of nice people in that small town but the majority were white, which was definitely an adjustment. I’m a big guy so no one every threatened me outright, but I had people that didn’t want to sit by me or made me feel unwelcome, stared, and made comments under their breath, and that was obviously not a good feeling.”

Pamela, Walter and Jasmine Chandler of West Carrollton. CONTRIBUTED
Pamela, Walter and Jasmine Chandler of West Carrollton. CONTRIBUTED

Eventually, the couple moved to Dayton to raise their now 4-year-old daughter, Jasmine, to feel more at ease in a more diverse environment. And, although the new locale is more accepting than their last, Pamela points out that she even encounters subtle (and sometimes, even overt) racism within her own neighborhood in West Carrollton.

“If we walk the dog every night, our neighbors will say hi to my husband, Walter,” said Pamela. “They are friendly right to your face, but when they're with their buddies, they're dropping the N word.”

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At the end of the day, the Black Lives Matter movement has simply shed light on inequities that exist in many aspects of the couple’s everyday lives, they said. Pamela and Walter Chandler are hopeful that this extended coverage of the inequalities black people face will make the white people and couples around them more cognizant of their biases and how they can change those biases.

Pamela, Walter and Jasmine Chandler of West Carrollton. CONTRIBUTED
Pamela, Walter and Jasmine Chandler of West Carrollton. CONTRIBUTED

“At the end of the day, we're all connected, whether you like it or not,” said Pamela. “There's no such thing as other people's problems. It should be everyone's problem, right? A lot of racism and prejudice comes from fear, and fear is oftentimes because it's like, unknown to them, right? The more you speak with people, like, talk to your neighbor who might be of a different color, get to know people outside of your own race, talk, show your experiences, and we can watch how quickly the fear will go away. I think that's the goal. We need to make these human connections.”

After their Facebook post went viral, the couple created a blog and separate Facebook page dedicated to documenting their life as an interracial family. You can find these by visiting thechandlercrew.com or The Chandler Crew on Facebook.