I’ve had a diverse group of friends for as long as I’ve been in charge of selecting them myself, and that began around the age of three for me. I don’t really remember a time when I haven’t had a multi-ethnic peer group, and for this I thank the public schools I attended.
My experiences were not that of your stereotypical white girl. I had corn rows in elementary, middle and high school. (I can still tell you that, when it comes to black hair care products, pink lotion is not my friend. Olive oil products work better for me.) When I was in the fourth grade, my favorite song was India Arie’s Brown Skin. In the sixth grade I decided I wanted to pledge AKA in college. I rode in a hoopty, not a flivver, as white people would say. My list could go on until death do us part, but you get the picture.
I’m so thankful for all of those experiences, because without them, I could’ve easily ended up on the same prejudiced track as the majority of my biological family. Instead I went in the complete opposite direction, and now I’m on the operations committee for Common Ground, a non-profit organization that aims to improve race relations in Memphis.
Every experience I’ve ever had that was outside of what is considered “normal” for white people has always been fun, educational and/or life-altering (often the hardest to spot during the process).
It was in those moments that I learned, grew and changed.
My life is so rich, not only because of my unique set of experiences, but because of the people in it. My friends and chosen family come in so many different shades, and they are the most incredible blessings.
Each one brings a unique interpretation of his or her culture to add to the culture we share, so my life has become a beautiful garden with every type and color of flower.
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot during the last couple of days after seeing a couple of stories like this one about white people dressing up as Trayvon Martin for Halloween (complete with hoodie, fake bullet hole full of blood and blackface). The girl who posted a photo of herself between “Trayvon Martin” and “George Zimmerman” at a Halloween party has repeatedly shown her own preference for white people and her prejudice against everyone else on her facebook page.
White supremacists and separatists, by definition, think white people are superior and often back up their desires for segregation with misinterpreted bible passages and flawed logic. However, like this girl, they don’t understand the basic loving nature of our just God.
We are all his sinful, equally flawed children. Being so prideful as to think you’re better than someone else is a sin in and of itself, plain and simple. It’s none of our jobs to decide who is worthy and of value, because we are all born in such a way. When you puff yourself up and act as though you are more valuable, especially because of something as trivial as skin color, you are actually devaluing yourself.
You see, that is the problem with supremacy. People get so caught up in the ugliness that they can’t see how horribly their ignorance is affecting their own lives.
You think you and your life are so much better because you’re white and you’re surrounded only by white people? Think again. You’re missing out on so many wonderful relationships, experiences and ideas. How can the life you create for yourself have more value when half the pieces are missing?
If I thought I was too good to hang out with non-white people, I would be pretty lonely because I wouldn’t have many friends. I’d have to find another church, transfer to a different university and move to a different part of town. The impact of ignorance on my life would be gargantuan.
I truly feel sorry for prejudiced people. They miss out on so many of my favorite gifts, and I just can’t even imagine what it must be like to continually limit and hurt yourself with your own stupidity.
That’s where the biggest flaw in a prejudiced person’s logic is found. Prejudice is all about self-hatred. When you choose to be uneducated (and it IS a choice), you aren’t going to hurt people of color, because (surprise, surprise) they’ve met people like you before. Instead you’re hurting yourself every single day that you choose prideful, arrogant ignorance over loving truth.
**Note: I didn’t take the time to explain why dressing up as a dead child for Halloween is inappropriate because I feel that you either already understand why or you need to figure it out yourself.