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.