Do you share the dream?


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by hlkljgk

When Beverly, of Writing in Flow, invited readers to write a post about racism and discrimination, I hesitated.

I did so because I didn’t know if it was a subject I could pull off.

After all, even though at times I tackle difficult issues, racism can be, as Beverly says, an “explosive” subject.

Having recently wrapped up the controversial post on feminism, I was dubious if I was ready to stir the pot again.

Nevertheless, I think it’s an issue that should be addressed, that needs to be addressed.

This because, discrimination is no longer something that affects a specific community; it affects us all.

It can touch our lives or the lives of those we care about.

Society has become vulnerable to racism and those affected can give testimony of how much suffering they endure; of the hostile environment that at times, leads some to commit suicide.

Sadly, we can never say we’re immune to it; protected from it.

Today, racism is not just provoked by the color of our skin, but instead, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and even our weight can turn us into a target for discrimination.

Beverly’s thought provoking post, “I Have A Dream–MLK Blogfest,” served to trigger a memory; a childhood memory of when, for the first time, I wished to be something I wasn’t.

I must admit that I only remember some of the details, yet through the years, my mother and nana have related what happened that day.

I think this was their way of reminding me of the importance of accepting and loving myself just the way I am.

My parents were as different as night and day, both in appearance and temperament.

My father, a native of the Caribbean, had beautiful skin the color of teak and large, chocolate-brown eyes.

He was formal, serious, and driven; a military man who knew the meaning of integrity and honor.

My mother, a spirited Spanish woman, is fair skinned and has blonde hair and blue eyes.

She’s a woman who loves to laugh, dance, and sing.

My sisters and I look like my father.

We have what nana used to call, cafe au lait skin, with brown eyes, varying in shades from dark to light.

Some of us are serious, others carefree.

One of us is by the book, while two of us love to break every rule.

But I digress.

My mother and nana told me I was three and a half on the day that it happened.

I remember playing with my sister in my mom’s room and discovering a bottle of Baby Johnson’s baby powder.

I recall sitting in the chair that faced the vanity table and pouring half the bottle of powder over my sister and myself.

This, while it made us look like we’d been dredged through flour, helped me achieve what I wanted.

My nana told me I walked into the living room, pulling my sister along, and proudly announced, “Mama, look at us!”

My mother turned and when she saw us, a horrified expression crossed her face.

“What in the world have you done?”

Nana told me I said, “Why, I’ve turned sissy and me white! Just like you and nana!”

This resulted in my mother dragging us to the bathroom and ordering me to wash us both.

Nana said I cried and I cried, unsure of what I had done wrong.

Throughout the years, nana retold the story and I remember it would always end the same way.

She’d say, “Bella, that day, your mama was awfully mad. She realized you wanted to change the color of your skin; to turn yourself into something you weren’t. I told her it was important she help you understand that the color of our skin is not what makes us who we are. Our attitudes, beliefs, and how we act, define who we are. Because the color of our skin doesn’t matter. What matters is how we treat others.”

As we grew older, my mother spoke to us openly about the similarities and differences between people and in doing so, encouraged us to value the humanity in people; to reach across racial and ethnic lines.

The story served to initiate a dialogue that still continues today.

I believe that parents have the responsibility of talking to their children about racism and diversity.

Keeping silent and not educating our children serves to feed misconceptions, fear, and ignorance.

And these help keep bigotry alive.

In fostering tolerance and acceptance, we raise children who are sensitive to the feelings of others.

In having open conversations regarding prejudice and discrimination, we help strip away misunderstandings and fear.

It would be irresponsible to believe that we can shield our children from bigotry, but we can take the first step in educating them to the importance of respecting others.

Like Martin Luther King Jr, I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day we will no longer have to worry about cruelty, bigotry, and hatred.

I have a dream that we will find our voice to promote compassion, acceptance, and fairness.

Do you share this dream?

If you’d like to take part in the discussion, or read what others have to say about racism and discrimination, drop by Beverly’s blog.

You’ll be glad you did!

62 thoughts on “Do you share the dream?

  1. Thanks for writing this Bella and sharing your story. I agree that racism and every form of discrimination is something we need to be proactive about preventing. I get so frustrated when I hear people say that racism isn’t that bad anymore or that it flat out doesn’t effect their lives. In today’s world racism is institutionalized and built into systems from the ground up. It might require more education to understand it but ignorance doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    • I agree–preteding things are better seems to help some people get by. However, it’s this state of denial that keeps us ignorant. We have to recognize the problem exists before tackling the important issues that affect us as a society. I’m glad you approve of the post! Thank you, lady! :)

  2. My son once decided to powder himself, but it wasn’t because of racism, simply one of those creative toddler moments. What a mess!

    For a very long time I was envious of those with cafe au lait skin, with curling dark hair. Finally I have come to accept that who I am is just fine. (Which is good because I don’t have much choice in the matter.) As you know, I think it’s important to keep talking about racism and discrimination – just because people don’t talk about it as much, doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. I’m so glad you’re educating your daughter, as your nana and mother educated you. Fabulous post, thanks for participating.

    • Beverly, in my case, it was seeing my mother, so blonde, so white, and with eyes so blue, that made me think she was nothing short of a princess. I wanted to be just like her–I still do! hee hee! Nevertheless, having a wise nana and a sensible mother helped me understand the importance of accepting ourselves the way we are. I’m happy to say I’ve educated both of my children to be tolerant and embracing of all cultures and races. The Son went to an international school and this helped even more. I’m delighted you liked the post! Thank you for having me! :)

  3. ~~ I absolutely adore your childhood stories. I love your grandma. I love that she taught you to:::

    NOT BE SILENT. TO SPEAK OUT. TO GIVE VOICE.

    Ignorance is a Murderer. Ignorance is A Killer.

    I thank God for you, Bella. xx

    • Kim, love, you and I know how ignorance can have detrimental results. We have to create awareness, evoke change by educating and speaking out. You’re doing more than your share to bring light to spousal abuse and the deadly consequences it can have. Your blog strengthens, empowers and gives women courage to stand up for themselves and their children. One person can make a difference and you’re proof of that. And I thank God for allowing me to have people like you in my life! My grandma would approve! :)

  4. Bella. . . All I can say is THANK YOU! A million times over. If I could I would give you a huge hug right now.

    As a white person, I’ve certainly never experienced discrimination based on my skin. But racism is certainly something I’ve thought about a lot as people have told me that I am racist, not racist enough (in more words), or that I can’t do something because I am a woman.

    I do share your dream. I dream (and work toward) a world in which everyone is respected for who and what they are.

    • Rachel, and what a beautiful dream you have! Wouldn’t life be wonderful in a world where we were respected and not judged? I’m thrilled you like the post! I must admit I felt a little trepidation taking on this subject–not because I am fearful of the effect it might have, but because I didn’t know if I could take a subject this serious and bring my point home. I’m relieved you liked it and understood its message. Sadly, like you note, racism takes on many forms and it’s no longer a situation that only involves being white or black. As women, we certainly face a lot of discrimination on the workplace. But we shall surge forward, courageous and determined to make a difference, sister! :)

    • Nina, your words have this soothing effect on me and suddenly I’m aglow with your praise! Thank you for your ever kind words. Your support means a lot. I hope that controversial or not, my posts continue to interest you. Hugs in abundance for you! :)

  5. What a great memory. It’s funny how we all, at one point or another, try to be something we’re not.

    Did I ever share with you a story of my childhood that I posted over a year ago with a similar theme? I called it the Fake Family Tree. How I had a homework assignment to create a family tree and, well, I made one up because I was well, I think the post says it best. Here’s the link: http://monicastangledweb.com/2010/10/15/the-real-family-tree/.

    Anyway, I’m so glad you did this for MLK day. It’s a great reminder of how far we still have to go. And, I think that as thrilled as many of us were to have our first African-American president, it’s also proven to be a blight on our country because it has brought out the ugly side of so many who can’t stand to see what his presidency represents. So maybe we’ve come a long way since the civil rights days of the sixties, but we have so very far to go.

    • Monica, indeed there is still so much road we must yet travel, friend. Nevertheless, we’ve taken the first step and that’s what counts! I stopped by your place and had a read at your Fake Family Tree post. OMG, woman, I loved it! Sheer brilliance! I’m still chuckling over “El Fujitivo!” I have to tell you about the time I had to create a list of what my family had for Thanksgiving! You’ll die laughing! hee hee! :)

  6. Bella, thank you so much for this post. I really appreciate it and do believe we all need to be aware of how racism and oppression work their way into our everyday lives. We are foolish to believe these issues are resolved.

    • Patrice, sadly, you’re right–there is still much work to be done. The idealist in me wants to believe that someday we will reach the finish line–that bigotry will be a thing of the past; something we look back at with shame but which also serves as a reminder of how much we’ve grown. We can only hope the children of our children wil be able to see such progress! :)

    • Jodi, I’m so happy you like the post! I saw the story as fitting to the topic of discussion and clearly children need guidance. I believe educating our children in these subjects is the foundation for finding a solution. Love you, lady! :)

  7. Bella,

    This is such a wonderful story – it is very touching Thank you for sharing.

    I consider myself very lucky in that my parents did talk to me about equality not being associated with the color of one’s skin and talking to me throughout my childhood about the history of bigotry. They felt this was very important even when they could have not spent as much time on the subject since we lived in a completely white neighborhood and my school only had 1 African American boy and 2 Indian boys enrolled (all the way up through high school – can you believe it?) In spite of this, they prepared me well for a much more diverse college experience.

    Fast forward to my own child raising. I feel absolutely blessed that our son attended a daycare/pre-school in which he was the minority (a very small minority). He spent 5 years almost unaware and very uncaring of a difference in skin color which gives me such joy. Now we continue reinforcing lessons of equality and learning from the past. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had been the subject of his classwork this last week and they watched a film that depicted the life and death of this great man. When I picked him up from school, he was clearly disturbed by what he saw which gave us an opportunity to discuss even further. It gives me such hope that this child of 7 does not simply gloss over this subject and is concerned enough to engage me in a discussion. We know that the only way to begin to conquer discrimination is continual education and discussion. Sadly, so much of it originates from negative family values and ignorance as you have stated. That does break my heart.

    Thanks for letting me contribute the conversation here.

    • Lisa. thank you for adding this comment and enhancing this post. Truly you are an example of the positive effects educating our children in discrimination and racism is like. I’m so grateful you shared this with us! And yes, I can believe you only had a couple of minorities in your high school–the Son studied for a year in a school in North Dakota where he was the only Latino in his class! Your child is receiving a wonderful education and you are aiding in the expansion of his knowledge. Good for you! We should all follow your example, lady! :)

  8. Compassion and Acceptance are so precious. I’m trying to learn this everyday. I love what you’ve shared. Cafe Au Lait skin. Your father’s skin the colour of teak … wow! Rules-abiding or rules-abandoning, every bit of us makes us us. We can hope to help our generations and the future ones learn to appreciate our authentic mixture of characteristics and features.

    • Claudine, hear, hear! I believe they will be able to do so if we teach them the value of their heritage and roots. I grew up in a bilingual family where my father only spoke to us in English and where my mother only spoke to us in Spanish. My mother made sure our traditions were kept alive and that we were acquainted with our Spanish heritage. Nevertheless, great emphasis was always placed on the fact that people were people. It mattered not where they came from or what they look like. As a result, we had boyfriends from every race and culture! hee hee! Seriously though, it’s a wonderful thing to raise children to be accepting and embracing. In the long run, they make for well-rounded individuals! :)

  9. Bella, you have done Martin Luther King proud! Yes, you “pulled it off.” A beautiful piece about your family and a needed reminder to all of us to make sure that we carry forward his dream.

    • Jann, I am most pleased that you think the post is worthy! Thank you for your kind words. They’ve truly made my day. I hope we can continue to reach for better things when it comes to doing away with racism and discrimination. It will make for a better world for all! :)

  10. How true it is….. Here many of the adverts for face cream claim to turn dark skin to fairer whiter looking skin…which irks me… In a country like India subtle racism exists within….

    • Savira, you’ve made an excellent point. In many cases we have to combat racism from within ourselves–like those who wish they were lighter, fairer. How ridiculous is that! Yet sadly, even Hollywood stars incur in the insane practice of bleaching their skin. Truly sad.

  11. “I have a dream that one day we will no longer have to worry about cruelty, bigotry, and hatred.

    I have a dream that we will find our voice to promote compassion, acceptance, and fairness.”

    I do share the dream, bella Bella. My weight has made me the object of bigotry over the years, yet that’s not what stands out when I consider bigotry.

    I consider friends and family who are homosexual, and who are subjected to unwarranted hate, and who don’t all share the same freedoms I take for granted, depending on where they live.

    I consider the robust Latino community a couple dozen miles south and west of me, who are outwardly scorned by some (including, I’m chagrined to admit, some of my friends and family) for no other reason than their usage of their ancestral language.

    When will we learn? Where will it end?

    Yes, I do share the dream. xoxo

    • Ellen, sweetheart, how true it is. I’m fortunate enough to live in a country where homosexuals are seen as nothing less than heterosexuals. No scorn, no rejection, simply acceptance. It’s a wonderful thing to not have to worry that your sexual orientation will garnish the hatred of others. As for the Latino communities, I know the feeling all too well. Whenever my mom and I go out, we only speak Spanish and still, in this day and age, in a state like North Carolina, some people still turn around to look at us when we speak. It’s a good thing I find their ignorance amusing, but still, this attitude is demeaning to those who exhibit it. Weight is another thing that will garnish unwanted attention. I say, enough already. It speaks of the lack of sensitivity in those living in the world today. Thanks for sharing the dream, sister! :)

    • Linda, hello and welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. My nana always said that after the initial upset, my mother and her laughed for a good while. I smile just thinking of my poor sister, the middle child, who probably went along because even then, she was a people pleaser! hee hee! :)

  12. Bella, what a wise and wonderful nana you had! I can picture you and your sister covered with baby power — smelling all sweet and innocent but trying to lighten your complexions. How sad, when others were trying desperately to darken theirs via tanning beds and sunshine. Why is it that we always seem to want what we don’t have and rue that which we do have?? You’re blessed to come from such interesting cultures — cherish that, my friend! And one day, in the Great Beyond, we’ll all truly be the same with no need for bigotry and hatred!

    • Debbie, I join you in the hope that we will one day rejoice in such a world! Sadly, you and I will be long gone but hey, we can still dream of it, can’t we? Nana was in a class by herself, Debbie. Everybody loved her. She’s the wisest person I have ever met and the best role model a girl could have growing up. She was strong, feisty, decisive, a “take the bull by the horns” type of woman. I loved her! And yes, isn’t it ironic how we’re never satisfied with what we’re born with? What is wrong with us?! :)

  13. Bella, yes, I do share the dream. I’ve been color blind for awhile now. In school there was racial unrest, walkouts and threats. Consolidation was the new normal some wouldn’t accept. After all, it hadn’t been that long ago that water fountains were separate. Diners had one door for whites to walk in and a window for blacks to order takeout. Hard to imagine now.
    Oh your story of flouring yourself white is precious! I can see you and your sister all exciting, changing color.

    • Debra, you’re right–it really wasn’t that long ago where the racial divide was tangible. I finally got around to seeing the movie, “The Help,” and it brought this fact close to home. Incredible! I’m glad that we’ve made significant strides since then but there’s still such a long way to go. I have faith that one day we will achieve it. Yesterday I called my sister to tell her about the post and since I knew the likelihood of her reading it was nil, I mentioned the powder incident. We laughed for a good while! :)

  14. Bella, this is a really touching post about a touchy subject. This really speaks volumes to me – my fiance & I have a different story of racism. I grew up in white suburbia, in an all white neighborhood, went to a white school, etc. I never really knew racism or anything like that. I have friends & family that are black, tan, all colors. My fiance grew up in a white neighborhood, but attending a school where he was one of maybe five or six white children. The other children were so prejudice against him, he was bullied, beaten up, threaten..some of his friends where even killed because of their skin color. It was difficult for me to understand what he’d been through until we lived for about a year in a predominantly black neighborhood. The way we were treated and looked at was appalling. I never in my life thought people could be so rude & crude, so heartless. I was slapped in the face with racism, and I will never forget the taste it left in my mouth. It taught me so much, and I really hope that one day, your dream can be achieved, and people can look beyond our exterior appearance, and love each other for who we really are.

    • Kirstin Marie, thank you for sharing your story. It breaks my heart that this took place. You have to wonder where humanity has gone when you discover things like this happen. The hatred is so widespread at times, that it’s life threatening. I truly hope that your living circumstances have now changed and you don’t have to undergo such cruelty. I’m so sorry you went through this. I’m certain that these horrible circumstances taught you that you have the ability to prevail; to conquer. And that’s empowering. It gives you the mental strength that at times is needed to get through the day. Thank you for enhancing this post, lady. Thank you! :)

  15. I have seen prejudice and racism here in the states, and abroad..it unfortunately lives on. The worst experience I witnessed, unfortunately my daughter (then 8) had to experience too. I shall never forget that feeling of incredulity that feelings can become so visceral and unfortunately move to near-violence. I shudder thinking of it..but raising two girls in this world, it is imperative that my husband and I educate them of this fact, that it exists, that though it exists, it does not mean it is right, and that it is important to conquer it. Thank you Bella for posting this most important topic and addressing it with your profound story. Happy New Year, Bella!

    • Shirley, it’s especially sad when children have to witness discrimination and racism up close. However, this does allow for open discussion, age permitting, with our children, to assuage any fears and uncertainties. I’m sorry you had to go through that and hopefully this served to educate your little girl to what happened and how it could have been prevented. It’s always a joy to have you drop by! I hope 2012 showers you with joy, happiness, and good health! :)

  16. Beautifully stated! And perfectly accurate. Children live what they are raised with. (There is a touching quote on that similar vein) If they are raised with bigotry, they learn to be bigots. If they are raised with kindness and acceptance, that’s what they learn. It all starts in the home. Again, you have opened our eyes. Thank you for this wonderful post! Moving on to your suggested posts now!

    • Diane, it is an honor to have your approval! Thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoyed the other posts as well. I believe they provide much insight into the subjects of discrimination and racism. If we were to all raise our children with kindness and acceptance, what a difference that would make, eh, Diane? :)

  17. What a wise mother you have Bella! Having grown up in England I know that bigotry and racism were prevalent, and many simply left England, going to North America or Australia rather than live within the confines of such cruelty and foolishness. Your mother gave to you a gift for all time, investing not only in you but in generations to come, the gift of acceptance and tolerance. If she were here I would give her a great big hug, sit her down in my comfiest chair and make her tea in my finest china cup. “Thanks Mum,” I’d say, looking into her wise eyes.

    • Elizabeth, I have shared your comment with my mum and she is pleased as punch! I didn’t know that racism was so prevalent in England at the time! Thank you for educating me to that fact. I think my nana and mother did help me greatly in accepting and embracing diversity. Surely in accepting the different talents that others have, we stand to benefit as a society. Now if everyone understood that, this would make for a better world! :)

  18. Sometimes I wonder if racism has simply taken on a more politically correct expression, which if you ask me is worse, more untruthful, more subtle, full of innuendo and double talk, like a monster with two faces. I apologize for the intensity, but there it is…

    • Cathy, no need to apologize for being real and calling it like you see it. At times I do believe this is true of a lot of people. Perhaps the pressure to be politically correct all the time in the US is what allows this hypocrisy to exist. I would rather see a person’s blatant contempt, than to see it lurk behind hir or her hypocritical smile. Don’t you agree?

    • JCV, thank you! I’m honored! It’s the first time I get the “Genuine” blogger award! What a treat! I’m on my way to your place to check it out! :)

  19. Bella, this is beautiful. I agree wholeheartedly when you say: “Parents have the responsibility of talking to their children about racism and diversity. Keeping silent and not educating our children serves to feed misconceptions, fear, and ignorance.” Thanks for sharing your lovely story, and your dream. I hope for all those same things.

    • Hello Becky! I’m so pleased you like the post! I’m delighted you approve and aspire for the same things. There’s strength in unity, sister! :)

  20. Hi Bella,

    I don’t think you should ever worry about your ability to tackle “difficult” subjects. I know saying that won’t make it so but having followed you for some time, you are a good writer. You gotta hang your balls out on a limb sometimes, it’s the only way to achieve greatness.

    And this…is a great post. It made me cry, caused me to reflect and genuflect. That is the sincerest type of gut response. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

    The dream lives on…

    C.

    • Coco, I’m touched. Thank you for your support and encouragement. Coming from an excellent writer as yourself, I’m honored. And I’m so pleased you like the post! Writers do have to take risks, even when it’s difficult and takes us out of our comfort zone. Just like the old adage says, no guts, no glory! :)

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