Telling Our Stories: Darrell Davis
At Vigor, we are working to elevate the voices and experiences of our employees. Recognizing the unique and personal pathway each person has traveled is part of building understanding and better connections between one another. This series of interviews with Vigor employees reflects our Love and Evolution values and the ongoing work we undertake to live up to these values.
What has been your experience up to joining Vigor?
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina which is still mostly segregated to this day. Many of the towns around where I am from are still segregated, usually separated by one street; you are either Black or white. I grew up middle class in a Black neighborhood -- my dad worked at La-Z-Boy and my mom worked at the school district -- listening to my dad's stories about treatment by white people. In the South it is not hidden. Racism is open. I saw the Klan march as a kid.
My first day in boot camp, right out of high school, the place was a melting pot of people. My recruiting commander came in yelling every derogatory slur for every race. Then he said, "if I hear any one of these words, I will personally kick you out of this institution. We have no room for that. Everyone here is Navy blue."
When you're growing up around these things, you tend to think differently. My recruiting commander was the first person to make me change how I thought. When we would do exercises he would ensure people were mixed up by race. You've been taught and raised as a child that all white people are bad, because of the things that were allowed to happen to us. The military is what taught me to judge people individually.
Now living out here, I have two kids and both of my kids are mixed. If I would have continued the beliefs that I was raised with, they wouldn't be here. One of the best things I've ever done is understand and change my beliefs.
Still, I have to teach them about how we are different. I tell my daughter if your dad ever gets pulled over, turn on your cell phone. Don't be blatant, just turn it out and be calm. We have a routine of where she could set her cell phone while it is still recording and still have her hands on the dashboard. She's 14 years old.
To be a hateful person -- to not like a person because of the color of their skin -- that is taught. Racial hate is taught and it can be untaught.
How would you describe your work as a Black person in ship repair/industrial work?
Being in this industry for so many years, I have gained the respect of my coworkers. Being Black in this industry isn't a big issue, except for a few people like you have anywhere. It is actually a place where people who might not otherwise have access to opportunity can get a good paying job.
Some days you get discouraged; some days you leave angry or have mixed emotions. But on the whole, this industry has been good to me.
What was your experience with the Vigor Race Forums?
I really chose to listen and hear other people's stories. We all have such similar stories. People talked about just getting used to it.
It was also true that there were people who wanted to blame others for issues, but don't want to think about how they can improve their own situation. Some people don't grow out of not knowing how to hold a normal conversation without yelling at someone. We can be our own worst enemies sometimes.
I don't mind talking about the truth. We actively speak the truth; we actively seek the truth. That's one of the Vigor values. I try to live those inside of work and outside of work. To be a hateful person -- to not like a person because of the color of their skin -- that is taught. Racial hate is taught and it can be untaught.
What does a Beloved Community look like at Vigor, or any workplace?
Vigor has been good to me overall. There are good people here, who have been very good to me. People being good, decent human beings is what we need. Be welcoming and engaging with people. This isn't extremely hard; there are some basic good things people can do.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black history should be taught as part of American history, all year. That history needs to go beyond figures like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We can't cram it into 28 days. We are a central part of American history.