Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random thoughts on race

How often do you think about your race? I’m not absolutely sure, but I think that, at least since college, in one way or another, I probably think about my race nearly every day, if only for a moment. In one way or another, daily, I’m reminded that I am Black. To me, this is not a negative thing; it’s just the way it is. Living in a race-conscious society has a way of making one race-conscious, especially if your race is viewed negatively by that society.


Pa Bill and Grandma (my great grandparents) had “good hair.” For the uninitiated, “good hair” is hair that blows in the wind, hair that can be moved and styled with a fine-toothed comb. In other words, “good” hair was hair that was close or similar in texture to White people’s hair. As far as I can tell, Black people have always judged themselves in relation to White people. The straighter the hair and the lighter the skin, the better. Of course, you know, that’s just how Whites judged Blacks. Blacks, as a race, simply adopted the value system of their oppressors.


My great-great grandmother, “Grandma Duncan”, was a very fair-skinned Black woman. Her mother was a “Mulatto”—the daughter of the White slave master by his Black slave (hence my great grandma’s “good” hair). I never had a chance to know Grandma Duncan, as she died in 1946. However, I did know Grandpa Duncan’s second wife, “Miss” Colona. Colona Duncan was also a very fair-skinned Black woman. She died a year before Grandpa Duncan. I’m told Grandpa Duncan didn’t want to marry “no dark-skinned woman”. If you remember his picture (seated in the center), you know Grandpa Duncan was dark-skinned. What was his rejection of dark-skinned Black women, but a form of self-hatred? You must understand, however, that this is what societal racism does to a person’s self-image. It almost makes one want to weep for the damage that has been done to Black people in America.

By the way, my wife happens to be fair-skinned (and, yes, she has “good” hair, also).
I think Grandpa Duncan would have been pleased.


I’ve been called a “Nigger”, in my hearing, five times in my life: once in 5th grade (by a “Navy brat”, a child whose parent was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base; not a native North Chicagoan); once in 7th grade (by another “Navy brat”); at a summer music camp, when I was almost 14; by one of my (short-lived) college roommates, as he grabbed me by the collar and shoved me against the wall; and, when I taught in a middle school, by a student in a crowded cafeteria. With such a crowd, I couldn’t identify who said it, although I know it was directed at me since I was the only Black person in the entire school building (and the only Black adult that I ever saw in the entire school district!). My experiences have taught me that “Nigger” is the weapon-of-choice for weak, cowardly, White people. When they can’t think of anything legitimate or intelligent to say, they always reach back for that word.


“Nigger” is used by Black people, too. My great grandparents used the word not infrequently, when referring to certain “choice” Black people. And, I’ll tell you right now, it was never meant as a compliment. However, my wife (who is a public high school teacher) informs me that some young Black people now throw around the word almost as a term of endearment, thereby encouraging a few White youngsters to use the word, also…and not just in reference to Black people! I can only shake my head in disbelief. It reminds me of that stupid question I’ve heard an occasional White person ask: “Why is it all right for Black people to say ‘Nigger’ and not White people?” I always feel like asking, “Why are you worried about it? Do you want to use the word? And why would you want to use it?”


Don’t refer to sin as “black”. Sin is not black. The Bible says, “Though your sins are like scarlet…though they are red like crimson” (Isaiah 1:18). Sin is not black; sin is red.


I don’t want any pictures of Jesus. I don’t even picture Jesus in my mind when I pray. Any picture that I, or anyone else, would come up with would be inaccurate, and unworthy of the Savior. One thing I do know: Jesus wasn’t blond-haired and blue-eyed! Most everything in our society says that White is better, prettier, more handsome, etc. The last thing Black people need is some picture telling them that even Jesus was a European!


Two Scripture passages every Black child ought to know and memorize (and, of course, there are thousands more):

Psalm 139:14a“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Because every Black child needs to know that they are a beautiful creation of God.

Romans 8:31b“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Because every Black child needs to know that if they stay on God’s side, it won’t matter who hates you.

1 comment:

Maere said...

Wow! Well, I definitely know what you are talking about. I remember my own maternal grandmother telling me that she never wanted any little "black babies" running around. I was 16, at the time, and couldn't understand why a black woman would say that. I remember thinking, "she must hate her own race." I wondered if it had anything to do with her 2 children dating (and marrying) white people. Did she tell them the same things? Then, I always thought, her 1 son married the darkest woman he could, to spite her. I don't know. But, there is definite prejudice in the black race. I was raised in a predominantly white community. I found it to be "natural" to "date" people of the other race, because that's what my mother did. She used to tell me, "don't ever go with no Niggas. They're no good." That was her own theory, probably due to being treated wrong by a black man (Ned). I remember him; His threat to kill us both, with a gun, when I was around 7 years old. I perceived from those comments and the memory of that man to not like or trust black men. Then I dated a "couple" black men that treated me wrong (no different than any man of any race), which gave me more reason, in my understanding, at the time. Today, I know that there are bad individuals in all races. My mother no longer stands by her previous comments. She is a different woman today. But, I do know that I have an "animosity" for men that approach me with, "Hey baby, what's up?" What is that? What happened to, "Hello, how are you?" Yes, there are polite and mannerable black men out there. Just few and far between that I have personally met and they are usually already taken. I have never been approached that way by a white man. But, that doesn't mean that a white man does not see me in a disrespectful way, as any disrespectful man of ANY race would. Sometimes we judge by experience and society's idea of something and it is hard to get out of that mind frame.

I happen to be one of the light skinned, good hair black women that has been faced with prejudice on both sides of the fence by both genders. Stupid questions like, are you black? Are you mixed? Does it matter? I have all bi-racial children, that science would claim are black. But, if you were to see them (2, in which their fathers are German and 4, which their father is Mexican), you would definitely question if they are black. Does it matter?

I raised my children that if anyone asks them what they are, they are to say, "American". If they insist on heritage, then ask them, "Why is it important to you?" In my view, for them to claim to be black, would be to denounce their fathers and their "heritage". I personally only think importance is found in humanity, not race. We are all human and children of God (hopefully). God doesn't care; Why should we.

I love you, brother. I hope it never mattered that I have a white grandfather. It never mattered to me what your skin color was. But, you are one of the finest (not talking about looks...lol) men I know, regardless of color.