This is my first installment of many. Thank you for reading.
The following is based on my experience unless otherwise stated.
As with my book, I see no purpose in naming names.
I want to draw upon my experiences to shed light on willful,
generational racism. There is no excuse. Too much information
is at our disposal.
Laziness does not exempt any of us from educating ourselves.
Words and Meanings
Bias: N) prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person or group
compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
V) cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something.
Racism: N) prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a
person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or
ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
2) the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics,
abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior
or superior to one another.
Empathy: N) the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I was taught racism
Growing up, I was taught racism. Racism lived in front of me.
Racism was spoken about openly. Racism was justified in the church.
Racism was tolerated in the schools I attended. And although I know
there was bias against other races and other religions, be clear that
when I say racism, I’m referring to being taught, specifically,
that black people were less than me.
Anyone who questioned the system was considered rebellious and a
troublemaker. Let’s be real. Anyone who questioned the system or
actively called out the hate and discrimination was labeled a N-Lover.
Unfortunately, I have said it and I have been called it by a very close
I’m about to be real about the environment and racist culture
I grew up in. Growing up in the “Bible Belt” left many of us confused.
The blatant hatred and disdain for a race of people was often
offset with “do unto others and love thy neighbor”. However,
the practiced but unspoken part was, “as long as they are white!”
Do I think many of the people I grew up around were good people?
Yes, I do. Were we taught ugly hateful ways? Yes, we were.
I know it is possible to educate oneself and open oneself up to the
concept that hate was/is taught, while being disguised as love for
our “heritage”. I am proof of the healing and ripple effect that
is possible. Which is why I am sharing. As the brilliant and much
missed Maya Angelou said, “Once you know better, do better.”
The beauty of listening with empathy is hearing and experiencing
a story as if it happened to you. If you see yourself here, sit with it,
think it over. If you have no concept of any of these experiences,
know they are real and true, sit with it, think it over.
I will refer to white people as white people and black people, as
black people. I don’t like the term African American. I don’t call
white people Anglo-Saxon or European, so why do we call black
people African American?
While reading please realize when I say, “white people who”, to
keep it in the context of the writing. Meaning I’m not implicating
ALL white people, ALL black people, or ALL Christians.
I was born in 1970, and I graduated high school in 1988. I am
50 years old and I am a white female. I was born in the north
and I grew up in the south.
Although I lived most of my life in the south, I didn’t know or have
contact with many black people. There was no reason to know black
people. The churches we attended were white. The school I attended
was located in a small white Methodist community outside of town.
I was told at a young age the school lines were drawn just this side
of a black community to keep black people out.
When I began kindergarten there were two black kids in our class,
a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, the boy drowned swimming in a pond,
when his foot became tangled in barbed wire.
We were in third or fourth grade.
The black girl in our class was lively and vibrant and her laugh could
fill a room. She was just like me.
Recently, while talking with a friend about growing up in a mostly
white bubble, I asked if she remembered her first race encounter
as a white child.
She recalled it happened in either kindergarten or first grade.
As she and her mother were filling out birthday invitations for
classmates, her mother questioned her decision to invite our
My friend explained, “When she asked me, I said, ‘Of course.
Yes. I want to invite her.’ But then, she asked me again, except
this time she added that maybe it wasn’t a good idea because
she was black.”
My friend went on to say she never questioned our black
friend’s “otherness” until her mom pointed it out to her.
Another person I asked said he was in second or third grade.
Before playing tag one day it was my friend’s turn to pick
who was “it”.
Everyone put their fists in the circle, and he
began, “Eeny Meeny, Miney, Moe, catch a —– by the toe…”
Everyone froze. My friend looked around at the many black
faces in the circle and quickly connected the dots between
the word he had just spoken and the implication of the word.
Someone said, “Man, don’t say that!” My friend said, “I’m sorry.”
The game resumed.
My friend said he’s never said that word again.
The salon where my mom worked was owned by a lady
whose housekeeper was black. Jesse cooked and cleaned
and did whatever else was needed for the lady of the house.
Once, in first or second grade, when the school secretary
called my mom to tell her I was sick and would need to be
collected from school, Miss Jesse is the one who came for me.
Leading the way up the stairs to a bedroom, Jesse reached a
hand back toward me, gently resting the cool backside of her
hand on my forehead. “Yep, you’ve got fever.”
After bringing me warm chicken noodle soup, she placed a
cold wash rag on my forehead, and told me to rest up.
This was the most one on one care I’d had in a long time.
If you’ve read my book, Resolve, you know my life was a mess.
My parents were divorcing after my mom announced she had
found another love of her life. Hatred and hurt was a constant
in my life, but Jesse was kind. How could someone so loving
and caring be bad?
Using the instance with Jesse as an example, if a white person
encountered a black person and had a good experience, the
reasoning was, “well they aren’t like most n%$#(*!”
When actually, what the person was saying was, “I got to know
this person as a human and I see they have the same hopes and
dreams I have. I can’t admit I may be wrong, so this person is
different, an outlier.”
This reasoning is still used today. Many white people use
their, “black friend experience” as justification for not being
racist. No, it means you look at one or two people differently
than you look at a “group” of people.
Personal Awareness and Personal Responsibility
You see when we experience one another as humans, all barriers
are knocked down, and we become vulnerable beings, worthy
of opportunity and acknowledgement.
On the back of my book, I’m quoted as saying, “We each represent
a story and our stories are meant to be shared. Once we
experience someone through their story, the walls of division
begin to wear away and we’re left with the beauty of humanity.”
Look at your own life experiences. Do you remember your first
encounter with racism? As a white person, do you remember
the first time a black person’s “otherness” was pointed out to you?
Was it by a family member, in church or were you with a friend?
Do you remember what you thought about it?
When you meet someone of a different color walking down the
street or standing in front of you in line, where do your
thoughts go? What is your body language?
Do you tend to judge “them” as a group or on an individual basis?
If you do look at “them” as a group, try this. As you go about
your week purposefully look around you and be aware of your
thoughts towards other people. Do you respond the same way to all people?
You don’t have to answer here. Of course, I am always available
for conversation, but mostly I want you to self-reflect. The change
must begin on the inside.
I’m still learning and growing myself. I’m really hard on white people.
Recently, when having a discussion on Facebook I referred to a
white person as “backwoods, inbred!”
My reference was about a random person, but still, I grouped a
group of people together in a derogatory way. I shouldn’t have
done that. I’m working at being more aware of my words.
Becoming aware is the first step to changing any behavior.
This week make an effort to be aware of your thoughts towards
people of color.
Until next time, remember kindness takes action. Kindness is a verb!