Herein are comments and thoughts taken verbatim from three people who contacted me regarding my previous commentaries. I chose from all email, letters, phone or in-person contacts because they highlight, quite succinctly, the issues and challenges involved. More importantly perhaps, they give us a clue to the resolution of something which could evolve into a serious problem for all Americans. Perhaps their comments have even more significance, in light of our just-celebrated Independence Day.
The black: “C-Rae” is a female college student who graduated with honors and is two years ahead of her high-school class. She works part time and is considering a career as a pharmacist or veterinarian. She happens to be one of my granddaughters.
The blonde: “Mrs. H” is a Southern-born, upper-middle-class professional, married to a salesman and mother of two married daughters, who also are business people.
The bishop: A black seminary graduate who is also a licensed minister.
Hi Grandpa, I found your article quite informative, especially since I have been called an “Oreo” and can relate. I am highly offended when called an “Oreo.” How can one say that I act white just because I am articulate and don’t act out? The other day I met a friend (white) at a local cafe and she introduced me to this guy (also white) at the table. Somehow, we got on the conversation of black people and he said, “I prefer your type of black person.” Needless to say, I asked for an elaboration so I could know exactly what type I was. “You know, sorta white on the inside.” So now, apparently, color is not whether or not you have sufficient melanin but your behavior. I was offended and disputed this and shifted the subject.”
When I responded to Mrs. H., who had read and commented on said article, I asked for her perspective on C-Rae’s comment.
Unfortunately for us all, stereotypes exist … be it senior citizens, women, rednecks, blondes, or blacks. In a culture saturated with visual reinforcements of these stereotypes, usually negative and often true, it is, at the least, a strenuous effort to overrule the natural eye and look beyond the surface. I must say that rather than be offended by the young man’s comments, she should consider herself complimented and appreciated for standing apart from the very stereotype she seeks to avoid, and of which many are so weary. She actually, by her demeanor, represented who she really is and those around her found pleasure in that person. She brought excellence and goodness to the moment, and that never fails to win the day. If perhaps his wording was less than eloquent, she should still be delighted to know she was seen as she sees herself. Can’t ask for much more than that.
As a blond woman, I know well how stereotypes exist and have, myself, laughed many times at the never ending “unintelligent blonde” jokes. I am not offended, though, because I know I do not fit into that category and so am even more appreciative of those times when someone recognizes the untruth of that stereotype as it applies to me. Defying that stereotype is not something I consciously set out to do every day, but by not being stereotypically blonde, it just happens that it is sometimes noticed and I am then gratified to have unwittingly set an example otherwise. Since stereotypes are typically negative, it is, in my opinion, a compliment, not an insult, when we are able break through that barrier in others’ minds.
Meanwhile, a bishop who read my article responded in classic stereotypical bombastic “don’t believe whitey, believe me” fashion. My comment about blindly believing what was heard from the pulpit was substantiated by his comments, as he inadvertently supported my position about blacks not researching the issues.
I honestly overlooked this [article], mainly because the subject line was rather subjective and abrasive. Now Ben, I’m not sure if you have attended any seminary classes, but the fact of the matter is I just honestly expect more out of any minister than this. Reason being, when it’s all said and done, these statistics and numbers really don’t amount to too much of anything, because if there’s one thing that ANY Black person should have learned by now in America, it’s that we can’t trust ANYTHING WE READ – PERIOD. There was a part in the article where you said, “Today the mindset is: ‘Never mind looking it up. If bishop says it, that’s the way it is!’” And I know you were being sarcastic to a degree, but I have to ask, is that not the same mindset we take up when whites give us information?
The question is, “Are black hypocrites or stupid?” Excuse my language but, nigga please … it’s far too much going on to make such a subjective claim as such. Granted, I appreciate you acknowledging at the end that we’re neither, but until blacks completely unify and take advantage of the strength in the numbers we have, all these numbers you’re talking are essentially irrelevant. … I’ll leave you all with a couple “fun facts” before I go. If you believe so much about Jesus of Nazareth, do some research about these spiritual figures that were all considered “anointed” or “Christ-like” way BEFORE the name Christ was tacked on to Jesus’ name: Buddha, Krishna, Odysseus, Romulus, Dionysus, Heracles, Glycon, Zoroaster/Zarathustra, Attis of Phrygia, Horus.”
Prior to all this, C-Rae had written and submitted a report in one of her classes, which she subsequently forwarded to me, and due to space considerations is excerpted here:
How It Feels To Be White Me
There’s always a point in one’s life when the realization that perception is everything becomes solid truth. The first time I realized that I was perceived to be something outside of the everyday norm was in middle school. Life for me began with the understanding that I was just a normal African-American girl attending a predominantly white school. Surrounded by small, near-perfect, pale-skinned individuals, I never once thought there was anything different about me. Yes, I was indeed bigger, and especially taller, than the others, but that was how it had always been and I never found fault in this. In fact, the realization that skin color had once driven a wedge between the two races at my school barely registered in my mind. The only inkling that being black had once meant something more came from the occasional talk in history class when slavery was the subject. There was always that one awkward pause when the teacher would struggle not to say something offensive on my part, even though it was never apparent to me why they struggled to find their words. No, even with these various elementary events that took place, I never thought of myself as out of the ordinary, at least not until I hit the seventh grade. Like Zora in “How It Feels to Be a Colored Me” by Zora Hurston, I was unaware of the label the world had given me until it was thrown into a place where confrontation was my only option.
It was this crucial time, the transition between an elementary way of learning and a middle-school learning style, that I was to be abruptly moved out of private school, in which I had just learned the ways of private-school politics, and roughly thrust into public school, where there were more black children running around than any other race, period. It wasn’t until I was surrounded by others of “my kind” that I noticed differences. I had lost my identity of a funny, friendly, bright individual and became “C-Rae,” a black white girl. This baffled my mind when people compared my personality to that of my melanin-deficient counterparts, in such a way that it was to be an assault to my personhood. Being called an “Oreo” that year made me really look at the way my personality contrasted with those around me. I was raised to speak well, take my education seriously and act with the sense God gave me, and all of this made me a Caucasian; this was a concept I neither liked nor understood.
In spite of this new realization that I was an irregularity, I never once thought of changing my personality. I was me and would remain as such; I just had a new perspective of a previously known image. Even now that I have had a little bit more experience with such circumstances, it catches me offguard when people call me a white black girl. Why was it that I, being raised by two intelligent African-American parents, was now considered white for my way of thinking?
The strength of an individual is the determining factor as to whether or not success will be achieved in this society. The level of my intellect, which has nothing to do with my color, along with my strength, will be the reason I will find success.
A portion of the life philosophy I have adopted and tried to pass on to my family is this: “You are who you are not because someone else thinks that is who you are. You are who you are because that is who you think you are. To change who you are, change who you think you are.”
Seems to me, the application of the essence of the concept of America, which is based on biblical principles, is the solution after all: “one nation, under God, indivisible …”
Perhaps this paraphrase of a scripture passage breaks it down even better: “[T]here is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but you are all one …” (Gal 3:28).
Granted, we may not all be “in Christ” – but we are certainly all in America.