On my husbandâ€™s blog, I came across a question from a liberal political blogger, who showed a documentary that interviewed young Blacks with, ah, identity issues. This blogger asked the conservative blogosphere if they feel the same sense of responsibility and concern about this.
Iâ€™ve been debating with myself whether to respond for several days, but in the end, I couldnâ€™t resist. To start, my dominant feeling in response to the video (I did watch it) is empathy, but I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s quite the answer Binkyboy was looking for.
If he means do I feel responsible for these problems, Iâ€™ll agree with Adam, no. I canâ€™t tell you what part my ancestors may have played in slavery and the Jim Crow era, but I am guiltless in those national sins by merit of not having been born. While, â€œthe sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and forth generation,â€ a spiritual reality wreaking havoc still today, the Lord also declared that the soul who sins shall die, and the father shall not be put to death for the sins of the son, nor the son for the father.
Now, as you might have guessed by my initial answer, I come at these issues from a rather unique perspective, as, in addition to attending an inner city public high school with around 80% minorities, I spent three summers in my teens living with a Black family. Granted, this was not a traditional family, but the Ohio Wesleyan University Upward Bound program, at least when I was involved in it, would meet the more liberal definitions of family floating around today.
Did I mention I was the only white girl? As a counselor at UB commented once, if ever a White person understood the Black community, itâ€™s me, both from living among them and being the actual minority in that situation.
One thing I learned, that is applicable here, is not to lump racial groups together. Depending on how the interviewees are chosen, a documentary on racial issues can come to any conclusion the filmmakers want it to. Yes, there are â€œdominantâ€ issues, but the documentary did not improve the genreâ€™s reputation for manipulation with me. You do have a segment that likes the lighter skin and straight hair, and the girls who deal with the pluses and minuses of kinky hair with those braids and such that I always admired (I used to wish I could do my hair up the way the Black girls did, and one friend actually tried to braid my hair to the end, but it unraveled just as I had predicted.) You have another group that favors a natural look, those with a healthy interest in their African heritage, and some that go as far as to don traditional African dress (and more power to them.)
So, again, my primary response is empathy, I relate easily to the lack of rootsâ€”my heritage is only partly known, a little native American overwhelmed by Celtic, Germanic, and perhaps Scandinavian ancestors. The idea I should feel especially sorry for Blacks not knowing what parts of Africa their ancestors hailed from seems silly in light of the fact no one is especially sorry I and millions of other whites canâ€™t list off every country in Europe our ancestors hailed from. On that point alone, few Americans whose families emigrated more than four generations or so ago can. With American culture going down the drain in favor of multiculturalism, there is certainly a pervasive feeling of disconnectedness growing, but it crosses racial lines.
On a side note, due to overcorrection in response to a genuine problem, I also know what it feels like to be made to feel ashamed, as if oneâ€™s race is evil, and to be discriminated against and wrongly judged due to the color of my skin (pale pink and light brown, Iâ€™m freckled.) Iâ€™ve known some great people, many of them my brothers and sisters in Christ, who just happened to be Black. Iâ€™ve also known some great racists who just happened to be Black. This segment hates all things white, expects special treatment and privileges based on the color of their own skin, and views every white person with suspicion and even hatred.
Now, our friend on the left could say they are only projecting their own self-hatred and itâ€™s my fault I was discriminated against because of the color of my skin as my ancestors may have injured their ancestors (when they could have easily been abolitionists as Iâ€™m from the great abolitionist state of Ohio.) But if this argument was made, who would be blaming the victim then? As I first put into words at the age of sixteen, prejudice itself is all too colorblind, and just as wrong no matter what shape it takes, or whose granddaddy did what to whom.
But, as I can tell you from first hand experience, for many in the Black community, self-directed racial shame and hatred is a serious problemâ€”one I can also tell you from experience is being addressed by programs like the one I belonged toâ€”do I have responsibility to do something? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question, â€œWho is my neighbor?â€ Wherever I see a need, I have a responsibility to use what I have in my hand to address it. Not everyone will be called to deal specifically in racial reconciliation, etc, but we all will have opportunity on occasion to make a difference in our neighborhood, by something as simple as, at a god-given opening, telling the dark-skinned young lady at church or down the street that sheâ€™s beautiful just the way God made her.
For that matter, considering the standards of beauty the media sets, Iâ€™m sure you know a few light-skinned girls who need to hear the exact same message.
In Christ’s Love,
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