The nationwide outrage following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other African-Americans in recent months has spurred a beloved three-time Olympic bobsledding medalist from Douglasville to share her own story in an effort to create “lasting change.”
Elana Meyers Taylor, a Lithia Springs High School grad, wrote Friday in a post on the Team USA website about the first time she was called the “n-word” at age five, biases against her in sports because she is black and discrimination against her. The post is titled, “Even Olympic medals can’t save you.”
Taylor writes about her four-month-old son Nico and how he was born pre-maturely and “fought for every breath.”
“It nearly broke me,” she writes.
She writes that George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly eight minutes, “died because of the color of skin.”
“George Floyd was once someone’s Nico,” Taylor writes.
Taylor, whose father Eddie Meyers played for the Atlanta Falcons, was born in California and spent some of her early childhood in Chicago.
She writes that she was five and living in Chicago the first time she was called the “n-word.” She recalls that she went to the home of two neighborhood boys who were white to see if they wanted to play. Instead of saying no, she said one of the boys threw a rock at her. The other went to pick up a stick while his brother yelled the “n-word” at her.
“That day led to my first ‘the talk’ — a talk that most black families are all too familiar with,” Taylor wrote. “A talk that usually begins with, ‘some people in this world will not like you because of the color of your skin,’ and then delves into what to do when the police approach you because they will. It finishes with a, ‘never let anyone hold you back, your skin is beautiful, and I love you.’ ”
Taylor points out that she is biracial — her dad is black and her mom is white. But she said with her “caramel brown skin and naturally curled hair, the world has always seen me as black and therefore I’ve always seen myself the same.”
She said she was in second grade when the family moved back to Georgia and that was when her athletic prowess started to show.
“My father was a former professional football player, so I saw my improving athleticism as a result of his genetics, but I was told otherwise,” Taylor wrote. She recalls one boy telling her: “No wonder you’re winning — you’re black which means you have extra muscles.” She said she’s heard that throughout her sporting career.
Taylor writes that she started playing softball at the age of eight and got good at it. As she improved, she wrote that she set her sights on playing shortstop, which she said she thought was the best position on the field.
“When I expressed this to one of my coaches, I was told ‘Black people don’t play shortstop, you belong in the outfield,’ ” Taylor said. “You see, shortstop is seen as a skilled position and from his perspective black athletes lacked the brain power for this position. This perception of black athletes would follow me throughout my career.”
Taylor was a standout softball player at Lithia Springs High and earned a scholarship to George Washington University as a shortstop.
She said that she always believed that once she reached the elite level of sport, “people wouldn’t care about the color of your skin.”
Taylor won a bronze medal as a brakeman in the 2010 Winter Olympics and she won silver medals in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics as a pilot.
She writes that one manufacturer of some of the world’s fastest bobsleds “refuses to sell to black pilots and has been quoted saying ‘if I wanted to see a monkey drive a sled, I’d go to the zoo.’ ”
“For me, it doesn’t matter how fast he’s able to make a sled, I’d give up a gold medal before driving a sled made by him,” Taylor writes, noting she drives a BMW sled. “And yet there currently sits one of these sleds in the Team USA garage, serving as a constant reminder to me where people who look like me stand in this sport.”
She writes about an incident when she and her husband Nic were driving from Arizona to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
She said Nic always drives five miles under the speed limit “due to prior run ins with police officers”
She recalls being pulled over on the trip and cooperating with the officer, who told them they were pulled over because their GPS was in the wrong location — something she later found out was untrue.
She said the officer checked their licenses and registration and told them they didn’t have insurance converge, which she said was also untrue. At that point, Taylor said the officer took their license plate and told them they could get pulled over again for not having a license plate.
Taylor writes that they went to the next DMV they could find and when they explained their story the clerk was baffled because nothing the officer said was true.
“Our only crime was driving while black,” Taylor writes. “Next time you get in the car, ask yourself if you feel completely confident that you’re going to get wherever it is you’re going without getting pulled over simply because of the color of your skin. You may never have thought of it this way before, but THAT is a privilege that many black people don’t get to enjoy. It is ridiculous. It’s outrageous. It’s true.”
She said she didn’t share her stories for sympathy or to portray herself as a victim. Rather, she said, she told her story because she thinks there is a “misconception that racism only occurs to certain types of black people.”
“That’s not true,” she writes. “Despite your level of education or achievement, it affects us all — there is no escape.”
She writes that she wants, like all parents, for her son to have a better life than she has and that part of that is “doing what I can to make a change, such that hopefully he is never judged by the color of his skin.”
“That’s a lofty goal, but an important one to never give up on,” Taylor writes. “I think it starts with sharing our stories and trying to help people understand that change is needed. If my story can prevent one person from viewing my son as a threat, then I’ll share as many stories as I can.”
Taylor said she is creating a workshop to be “part of driving conversation and understanding that might lead to lasting change.”
The workshop, she said, consists of three things:
• Sharing more stories to raise awareness. She encourages others to share their stories with her on Instagram @elanameyerstaylor
• Shining a light on the biases at the root of these stories.
• Presenting more inclusive, alternative behaviors in response to those biases.
“I believe those three things; awareness, understanding the bias, and adopting more inclusive behaviors will help bring about the changes needed such that Nico will grow into a world where he can breathe freely and live in peace,” she writes.
Read Taylor’s full post at https://go.teamusa.org/2NEDQCT