This will be my last blog post on the subject of race this Black History Month and my most compelling. I hope you will read this post in its entirety and it stirs you to share your voice in the mix where you reside.
Allow me to begin by saying that my personal belief is the white man is not the black man's biggest problem. It is the color of the uniform that is our biggest peril. Those police in blue who only see our color. The long arm of justice who only see our color. Any institutionalized system of prejudice, no matter the color who only see our color and not our inner content. We live in a world where the majority often paint with a broad brush when characterizing people of other races. Blacks are not alone in this. Many brown people around the world are mischaracterized culturally, religiously and otherwise. Until we stop seeing color except as the hue that God exceptionally created, we as mankind suffer a blind-eye to this world's true beauty and our exceptional role within it.
Recently I got a message from a white friend, whose name will remain anonymous. Mostly anonymous because in truth, her name could be anyone of our friend's names. Upon reading her message, my husband and I called her by phone. We had a wonderful thought-provoking chat: Below is her original message. As you read it, I would ask you to examine your friendships and associations. How many within your circle share the same views, unspoken?
Dear La Detra,
I'm going to be painfully honest. Take a deep breath. I grew up with racist parents who were born in the late 1930's. I don't think they were raised to know better, so I forgave them for their ignorance long ago. They were never blatantly racist (as they would say), just said things like our people don't mix with their people. To me that very thought is racist, but to them only using the "N" word was racist.
That being said, I know I have parts of me that need to change. I can't articulate them, but I know somewhere deep down, unintentionally, they're there. I pray before I leave this earth that God has revealed my own predjudices and has removed them. I'm certainly a work in progress.
From a white woman's perspective, here are things I need help understanding.
1. I don't know what to call dark skinned people. American American, colored, black, people of color (and of course my parents used to say negroes) etc. I've offended some by saying black, and I've offended some by saying African American. I'm always scared to call a dark skinned person anything because of the varying degrees of adjectives.
2. " Hollyweird" has influenced my views on "who" to be afraid of. Do you remember the Michelle Pfifer movie years ago, Dangerous Minds? It "taught" me that black boys in dark hoodies, gold chains, and low-waisted jeans are to be feared. In so many ways, Hollywood has perpetuated and given rise to my fear of black men. Sadly, I would have been afraid both Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin was going to kill me, and if others, with guns, fear the way I do, their fear may cause them to pull a trigger unnecessarily.
3. My family and I lived in a neighborhood that was 30% white for 11 years. The overwhelming majority were black. We CHOSE that location for our kids to have a variety of ethnicities to befriend and relate to. It paid off. That's where my daughter met her best friend, and her best friend's mom is one of my dearest friends.
Living there developed something beautiful in my daughter. She would spend days at their house in the summer having them braid her hair and understanding that black women have a lot more to do to keep themselves beautiful than she does. She would always say, "Mom, you wouldn't believe the hair creams and skin creams."
4. Her first two "boy friends" were black boys.
This year, she started public school for the first time in her life. For the first time she was called a 'white cracker' in a very harsh tone. She wouldn't allow the boy next door to use her bike, and he got upset and screamed that at her and her friend. Fortunately, she had no idea it was a racial slur. She just knew he was mad.
Then at school, two black boys asked her to go out. (As if my 12 year old is going "out" with anyone, but that's beside the point). When she told them she wouldn't go out with either one, they started telling other kids she is racist. My very thick skinned daughter came home and cried because she said she's never felt racist a day in her life. The boys told her teacher she called them the "N" word. She pleaded with me that she's never uttered that word in her life. I truly believe her. Now, SADLY, after working so hard, she's gotten a little afraid of being around some of the black kids because she says anything can make them think racism. I never want her afraid to interact with other races, and I'm mad that happened.
5. The word racist is so completely jaded. The typical American has no clue how to give a definition in 2015. However, I feel like I walk on egg shells around most of my black friends because I never want to say the wrong thing or be labeled a racist.
6. My dear friend who is black, says she feels awkward shopping where we live. She says white people look at her like she doesn't belong. I don't get it. I know I won't ever get it because I'm not black. But, I secretly wonder if she's thinking things other white people just aren't intending. I get looks from the white people and black people when I shop there. I never thought of it about race. My thought was that I wear sweatpants and T-shirts and most others are dressed to the nines. I just don't care that much, but if I were black, would I be thinking it's the color of my skin or the clothes I'm wearing?
Now when I go out to shop, I bend over backwards to make black people feel welcomed. I open doors for them. I make sure to smile at every black person around. I make conversation, but with white people, I don't care. I pretty much ignore them. How stupid is that?? Maybe I'm racist against white people at those places.
Ok. These are a few of my thoughts/questions and painful admonitions.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
All together in Him,
My friend, anonymous