“Black Lives Matter” or “Not Skin Deep”?

I’ve been mostly silent on the BLM movement because of the violence I see in the media, but I’m going to be brave and take a chance here to express my opinion with people I know. When I was in 4th grade, the schools were desegregated, so for 5th and 6th grades I was bused from a majority white school that was closer to my home to a majority black school that was farther away in a traditional black neighborhood. Back then, I was a skinny and timid girl who had little confidence in herself. A few days after I arrived, three tough black girls in my class decided to beat me up during recess and after school. Every day they waited for me and grabbed my pigtails, pushed me down, and dragged me on the ground. I had bruises on my upper arms from where they grabbed me and yanked me around and I remember my scalp was really sore. My mom told the principal, who was a black man, and he told my mother that I was lying and didn’t do anything about it.

I did not grow up in the time of racial slavery. On the contrary, I grew up in an era where black people qualified for a lot of benefits that I didn’t, because I was white. That’s just the way it was, and I accepted it. After college, I joined the Peace Corps in Africa where I lived and worked with black people. One might say, I wanted to be black, since I dressed in the traditional clothing and had my hair braided. I was the only white person in the village for awhile. In fact, I had to be really careful not to scare the children who had never seen a white person before. The women I met were strong and humble and kind, and I’m still in contact with some of my friends there and one ex boyfriend . They worked in the hot sun wearing traditional dresses, taking care of crops, cooking in pots on the ground, and carrying babies on their backs wherever they went. Their arms and legs were muscular and they had smooth youthful skin from all the palm and coconut oil they consumed. Meanwhile, their husbands (some with many wives) sat around in the bars drinking palm wine, playing cards, and running taxi services. Men did not work like women, and they weren’t as strong or fit. I became close friends with some of the women, and had a few male friends too. We would often debate about polygamy, animism, and religion. There was rarely a dull conversation or experience in Cameroon. I taught people karate, organized a women’s group, vaccinated children, helped deliver babies, presented on how to have safe sex (there was a lot of HIV and AIDS), visited other villages, played with kids, and much more. I learned from them and they learned from me. One weekend I was invited to a Christian conference. To get there, I had the privilege of riding in a car, but other people from my village didn’t have and couldn’t afford transport. They walked two days over the mountains barefoot with no money for food or lodging. The locals opened their homes to strangers and these people slept single file, body to body on the hard dirt floors just so they could be there and learn about God. I was invited to a dinner as a special guest, and was given a closet with a cot and a blanket where I could sleep easier. The Cameroonians understood that I wasn’t strong like they were. From their perspective, my skin color made me weak and vulnerable, so they were always looking out for me and trying to protect me, even from the spirit world. Although I was a woman, I was treated with the respect normally given to an important man. It felt good to be treated so well, but at the same time, I felt guilty for being treated differently than the local women. I was given a dining table, a plate, and silverware to eat my dinner with the men, while the women ate in the back room, without silverware, and often on the floor. I wrote about these cultural experiences in my book, Love Evil: An extraordinary journey of the heart.

While pursuing an MA degree back in the USA, I worked as the Coordinator of the McNair Scholars Program (free money for talented minority students who wanted to go to graduate school), a federally funded program run through the Office of Minority Affairs. There I helped many talented young black women and men excel as graduate students, and I worked in a department where I was the only white person among 25-30 employees. I loved several of my co-workers and especially the Director of Minority Affairs who was a wise, gentle, and accomplished black woman. I admired and respected her very much, and I vaguely remember writing a paper about her being my hero. Fact is, it wasn’t easy for her to hire a white girl to manage a minority program, as you can probably imagine. Dr. Warfield took an interest in me, made time to get to know me, and saw past my skin color to my person and potential inside. She concluded that I had something to offer talented black and brown students, and she put her reputation at risk by hiring me. In fact, I know she took heat from some staff members who weren’t so keen on the idea. So I appreciated her courage, and I worked hard to make her proud. She was my mentor for awhile, and she made a great impression in my life.

I repeat, I did not grow up in a time of slavery, but during a period when government decided that black people would get special privileges and benefits that I didn’t get for being white. The subliminal message was “black people need extra help because they were damaged by white people and they aren’t capable of excelling on their own in the world we have today.” Whether you like it or not, that’s the message given to my generation of white kids. Now I’ve had good and bad experiences with black people and I’ve had good and bad experiences with whites too. I don’t look at a person’s skin and say “Oh, they are all like this…” I don’t look at police and say “Oh, they are all racist…” I try not to lump people into a category without getting to know them on a personal basis, but I do hold all people accountable for what they do and how they treat me and others. A racist is someone who can’t see past race and treats people of that race inferior to him/her. But isn’t a racist also someone who can’t see past race and treats people of that race superior to him/her by offering up special privileges? Something to think about; the BLM anti-racism solution is really inverse thinking…instead of treating blacks inferior because of the color of their skin, we are to give them more privileges, more leeway, and treat them superior because of the color of their skin. This is upsetting to any thinking person, black or white, because it encourages people to go no deeper than a person’s skin, which is a damn shame.

The real solution to racism is getting people to understand how the brain works and creating situations in people’s lives that can change stereotypes in people’s brains. Dr. David Sack wrote it well, “While we can’t turn off our brain’s natural tendency to lump people and things together, we can understand and help influence the meaning we assign to those categories and to push ourselves to think beyond the stereotype. But it takes effort.” For more, read Destined to Stereotype? How the Mind’s Gift for Grouping Gets Us Into Trouble… “With each encounter in our lives, we categorize. It’s a survival skill that allows our brains to make sense of an endless flow of data. Without it, we would have to puzzle out the meaning of each person and object individually rather than, say, assigning that speeding car to the ‘reckless driver’ category and getting out of its way.” To categorize our experiences with people is natural; it’s how we have evolved and survived. It’s the way the brain works and how we make sense of our reality. I got hurt by some black girls when I was a child, and for a long time I was afraid of black girls and black women. Luckily, my life led me to new, more positive experiences with them, which altered by brain and caused me to assign less meaning to skin color in my understanding of you as human being. When I was a child, I was also bit by a little old dog, and it left its tooth in my calf! As a result, I tend to be fearful of little old dogs because they bark a lot and bite! I’ve also been guilty of lumping Christians into one category, for example, thinking they’re all like this…or thinking they all believe this way…but Christians too come in lots of different packages and everyone is unique. Some Christians have hurt me and my faith. Others have helped me grow spiritually through the love they demonstrate to people. Every experience we have with new people either alters or solidifies our stereotypes, where we categorize information, how we create our reality, and ultimately survive. Relationships almost always alter our brains and change us for better or worse. I’m thankful for all my relationships over the course of my life. While every relationship hasn’t worked out, it has taught me something or many things valuable about what to do and what not to do in life, and has contributed to the person I am today, the woman writing this blog.

If we really want to change the world, we have to BE THE CHANGE THAT WE WANT TO SEE HAPPEN. From a Christian perspective, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can only influence and change the way people think about us by our actions. I implore, actions speak a whole lot louder than words! Being forced out of my school into another where I was beat up by black girls, and not protected by the system or anyone in it, was traumatizing. But I had a black teacher (Mrs. Williamson – like my name) who was really great. She was my best elementary teacher by far, and she worked at the majority white school where I attended before desegregation. She was black, but the kids and parents used to call her white because she didn’t “act black” (whatever that means)…you know what I mean, but she was definitely black and beautiful. I’ve spent a great deal of my life around people of all colors, races, nations, and cultures, but I’m still guilty of categorizing and stereotyping. Asian people eat a lot of rice! Is that a fact or a stereotype? I would really like to see racism disappear, but throwing bricks through windows, gunning people down, beating people up, breaking into houses, looting stores, burning buildings, defacing and destroying national monuments, advocating that we take property rights away from people because they are white, demanding reparations from a bankrupt country just isn’t the right approach to get what you want, if what you really want is no more racism. BLM operates on the premise that skin color should matter for payouts and benefits, for superior treatment but not for inferior treatment. This is what I was taught, but how is superior treatment different from inferior treatment if it’s still based on the color of your skin and not on the person you are or any new relationships that you’ve developed? How does that change what people believe?

Someone told me recently that the root of all problems in society is racism, but that’s not the way I see it. Slavery was and is driven by man’s thirst for riches and power, and racism was and is the byproduct of that sin. It is what we got from sacrificing people’s freedom for personal prosperity. It isn’t always about what whites have done to blacks either; African kings sought favor from invading Europeans by gifting them with slaves. Yes, people were enslaved and hurt by their own people too, and it’s still happening today on a massive scale. Modern-day slavery (childhood labor in many developing countries) is fueled by America, and the almighty dollar standard. So is sex slavery and other human trafficking. The root of evil is the love of power, riches, and man’s propensity to use and minimize other people for the sake of his own prosperity. Do you realize that’s happening right now? Have you ever thought about dollar privilege and how it props up the super rich and the ultimate sin? How is it that the USA can borrow money from the world with a never-ending blank check? Are sanctions the blows of bullies? We have something like 800 military bases around the world! Who is paying for all that? What are they doing in all these countries and why are they there? Nowadays, billionaires fly in their gulf streams, hop from house to house, and sail around in their yachts while children in the developing world slave to make their stuff, your stuff. By printing money out of thin air, and forcing the world to be lenders under a dollar standard, in a cesspool of debt, the government ensures that the wealthy stay wealthy and get wealthier (on paper) and the poor get poorer in real life. They have ensured that slavery goes on to support their false prosperity just like the racial slave drivers did 150 years ago. Have we really evolved or have we just shifted prosperity and oppression on a global scale? I’ll save this topic for another post.

Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s say that in the current geo-politcal environment, at the end of this long-term  cycle of extreme credit and debt, our leaders decide to give every black family 800K in reparations as a Duke professor is advocating. They have to borrow that money from the rest of the world, or print it out of thin air and devalue our currency. It’s not a gift from Heaven. And if you really understand economics, then you will see that our debt has dramatically outpaced GDP, how the dollar is on the verge of collapse because the rest of the world is going to stop lending trillions to the USA every single year and then inflation soars. We simply can’t stay on this trajectory forever and ever! Who will get the blame for a society that crashes and burns? Will it be our “kind” and “caring” leaders who gave in to the demands of BLM? Hint: try asking for reparations in physical gold and see how generous they become, or not. Realistically, the blame will likely fall upon the folks who looted and destroyed businesses, defaced national monuments, de-funded the police, etc. BLM and the people they represent will become the scapegoats, not the heros. Get yourself behind the media and politics and understand the power of narrative. There are no accidents in the media, and nobody gets something for nothing. Instead of fighting each other, and fueling racial wars, we should be spending time and resources to help people understand, develop, and love themselves and others as human beings by teaching forgiveness, not pumping up violence, division, and hatred. I honestly believe that these riots are inciting more racism underneath the facade of what’s “politically correct” and will only hurt our country in the end. Forgiveness is how we heal and real open dialog (where we aren’t fearful for our lives, properties, businesses, and jobs) is how we grow. I love good, authentic, honest, hard-working, kind people who have forgiveness in their hearts and contribute to a better world. I don’t care what color you are…what I care about is who you are and how you make the world a better place. Skin color does not matter; you as a person matter. What you do to others matters, and you can make a difference by being different, by focusing on and treating the root of the problem and creating positive experiences between individuals and countries. Live a life of love, and be the person you were born to be, who brings real and lasting change for the better.

 

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for your candid reflection and vulnerability. I enjoyed reading about your experience and feel that many in my generation born in the early eighties have not heard nor deeply understand this perspective. I agree that violence is not the answer, but history has shown that violence has led to to change. Also, I am saddened that you did not mention all of the peaceful marches and protests and people within the Black Lives Matters movement are organizing and facilitating by demanding change within our current system and society. Granted those individuals are rarely in the media since that platform highlights violence and tends to assist in dividing rather than unitiing individuals and communities as a whole. I feel fortunate to live in a society where we can have healthy dialogue and learn from one another. Thank you again for your reflection and your service as a Peace Corp member and all of your hard work in the field.

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