Dr. Ronnie Taylor was born to extremely young parents who divorced after a few years of marriage. His mom converted to Mormonism and moved the family to Salt Lake City to start a new life. Unfortunately, the missionary who converted and recruited her failed to tell the church Ronnie’s family was Black. They weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms.
His mom worked and went to college full time, and eventually she remarried. Growing up in Utah as a Black Mormon was tough. Ronnie moved out when he was 17 and tried to build a life for himself, but he kept getting targeted by police.
“In my life to date, I've been pulled over by the police about 55 times and I've been beaten by the police five times. I've also been arrested over a dozen times.”
Ronnie cashed two $300 checks. He didn't have the money in his bank account, but he thought he could just pay the money back and it would be okay. He didn't think the penalty would be that severe…but it was two felonies with zero to five years jail time. He was sentenced to three years, probation, 178 hours of community service, and 6 months house arrest. He also had to pay the restitution and a fine.
Soon he found himself falling into a never-ending series of bad situations that kept getting worse, and he was only 20 years old.
“And if you can't get a job or vote or all these other myriad of consequences that come from a conviction, then you're largely excluded from society as a whole. Being in that situation was much harder because it meant years of job insecurity and financial insecurity…And if you can't make money, you just can't participate in life in many ways.”
The only solution he could find was to move out of state and lie on his job applications. While living in Rhode Island, Ronnie met his wife Kerala and they moved to Washington DC.
“She says I romanticized living in DC, but I remember really enjoying it partially because it's a mostly Black city. We used to call it Chocolate City.
It was the first time in my life where I lived in an environment where I was just not special.
I was just a normal, everyday person who got to walk around and not have to deal with a lot of the things that I have to deal with.
There was also the reverse where, being in a predominantly Black environment that people think I act too white. I don't fit in anywhere.”
He went into paramedic school and tried to get his record cleaned up. Eventually he had to pay a lawyer to get his record expunged.
Ronnie realized he didn’t want to be a paramedic his whole life so he went to George Washington University and graduated summa cum laude while also working full-time.
Ronnie's doctorate program brought the family to Portland, OR. He earned his doctorate in occupational therapy and now he’s on track to become certified as a hand therapist.
Listen to the podcast to hear about growing up as a Black Mormon, how he turned his life around, and what his life is like today.
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