Trading Spaces Designer Mikel Welch Shares Racism Doesn't Stop Because 'I’m on Television'
"I’ve been pulled over by the police and asked, 'what am I doing in this neighborhood,'" the designer and said of visiting the homes of his high-end clients
Designer and TV host Mikel Welch is known for his elegant interiors brought to life on shows like Trading Spaces and HGTV's Design Star, but in a personal Instagram post, he shared that TV fame hasn't diminished the regular instances of racism he encounters off-screen.
The New York-based talent, who currently appears as a design pro on Quibi's Murder House Flip, broke his Instagram grid of inspiring spaces to speak out in the days following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police that has sparked nationwide protests.
"For a while, I thought if I 'wore the right clothes' or 'spoke a certain way,' that would keep me safe," writes Welch, who's known for his sharp style and signature bowties. "But, I’m quickly reminded every day, that this belief is so far from the truth." He adds, "Although I’m on television, I face the same racism that I see on the news every day."
Welch details some of the troubling encounters he's had, including while visiting the homes of his high-profile clients (one of whom is Real Housewives of Atlanta's Sheree Whitfield).
"I too fear for my life every time I’m driving to my clients’ high-end residential communities because I’ve been pulled over by the police and ask[ed], 'what am I doing in this neighborhood?'" he writes.
But, he says, smaller confrontations happen every day, "whether it’s the women with the quick clutch of her purse as I walk past her on the street, even though I’m armed with both hands full of groceries, or my neighbors who enter my apartment building just as I do, but ask if I actually live in the building and request that I show him my key before allowing me in the door behind him."
He recalls being followed around a wine store by an employee "to ensure that I’m not stealing," noting, "I’m usually looking through my photos to post a beautiful IG image for inspiration, but today my conscious wouldn’t let me do it."
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He concludes the post, which features an image bearing the phrase "Black Lives Matter," with a simple sentiment: "I too, am a Black man and my life matters whether I have on a bow tie or baseball cap."
Welch is among a growing number of celebrities who have spoken out in recent days. Today co-host Al Roker shared his fears for his 17-year-old son Nick. Singer Lizzo posted a tearful video. And Ellen's Stephen "Twitch" Boss and his wife, dancer Allison Holker Boss, shared a serious version of the "Put a Finger Down" TikTok trend, in which Stephen shares that he's been called a racial slur, been followed in a store, and had someone cross the street to avoid passing him, among other examples.
Welch's post came as demonstrations continue to unfold across the country. They began last week in Minneapolis when footage of Floyd — an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck — began circulating online.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, and three others who stood by while Floyd repeated that he couldn't breathe have all been fired. On Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. In the days since, masses of outraged Americans have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
•Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
•ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.