Racism is a cancer and Clayton Denny is a survivor

(Sheridan, Wyo.) — Clayton Denny is a survivor. Physically, he is in great shape. He is a personal trainer, after all, and one day he plans to own his own gym. But his soul, his spirit, is also in pretty great shape. During the early morning hours of May 8, the Sheridan Police Department received information regarding an aggravated battery in the alley west of the Beaver Creek Saloon. It was that night that Clayton's life changed. Dylan James Dygert (21) and Jacob Robert Olson (26), both of Sheridan, were arrested for aggravated assault and battery (WS 6-2-502). Both men were arrested during the late afternoon of May 12. What exactly happened that night will be brought to light in the courtroom. Clayton did not want to go into details about the incident that night yet, but his injuries are severe. He still has sight in both of his eyes, but the road to recovery will be long. There will be surgeries in his future. But Clayton will not give in. With his girlfriend Annie Shaver at his side, the two will not be defeated. Clayton, 25, is black and Chippewa-Cree. He said he has faced racism throughout his life—Annie said she has seen it happen too. She has heard racial slurs thrown around, even before last weekend, and right here in Sheridan. "When you see it in your own back yard, it is hard to believe. I think everybody in Sheridan needs to know it is very real, and it is a problem," Annie said. "It is very easy to turn a cheek and say, 'Oh, that will never happen to us. That is not real, racism is not real.' But it is real, and that has been made very evident." Clayton has lived in Sheridan since August of 2015. From 2009-2013, he served as a military mechanic Corporal in the Marine Corps. Today he is a personal trainer at The Body Shop. Annie has been a registered nurse since 2013, and in Sheridan since 2014. "I would like to teach kids to embrace different cultures," Clayton says. "That is a good thing. You want to learn about somebody. America is the melting pot of the world. You are going to get people from everywhere who want to embrace you—and you should embrace them." Clayton says that growing up on the reservation shaped him into the man he is today. A powwow, he said, is a life changing, elegant, legendary experience. Cultural experiences enhance you—differences make us strong. "If you don't experience other cultures ... that is what can perpetuate that racism," he says. "Racism is a cancer. It may go into remission, but it comes back. You have to keep standing up against it, you have to keep fighting it. "If you show cancer you are scared, you will die. ... We can put racism in remission, but the unfortunate fact is that there will always be people telling their kids in dark corners, 'Don't like this person because of their skin color,'" Clayton says. Clayton says he was taught at a young age to accept all people. "But I was taught—this is where it starts—you are taught this kind of stuff. My mother taught me that all people are equal, and that you should treat people how you want to be treated," Clayton says. Annie says she sees that hateful culture making a resurgence, and that is evident in what happened here in Sheridan to Clayton. "At Trump rallies ... (people are told) punch them, we will pay your medical bills. How is that ok? That is not ok. That whole attitude and atmosphere—that violent, hateful atmosphere is a root cause to what happened Saturday night," she said. But the two will not be defeated by the cancer that is racism. There will be recovery and healing, but the two are survivors. And they are survivors together. [image: Inline image 1] *All photos h/t Annie Shaver / Pitchengine Communities* [image: Inline image 2] *All photos h/t Annie Shaver / Pitchengine Communities* #dally #news