Thoughts On Race, Color & Being Right
Yesterday, I went to the Museum of African American History with my family. I came out of it feeling conflicted, angry, apathetic, hopeless, and hopeful all at the same time. It was my first time. I’d heard many thoughts about the museum from friends who had gone. Many said it was a very emotional experience. As a matter of fact, when you begin the first tour, the tour guides tell you where the bathrooms are because they warn you how emotional it will be.
I have heard post-visit conversations and most were very pro-black. Most came from a position of hurt and pain. I understand it. I’ve never been whipped by a slave master but I certainly understand physical pain. I’ve never suffered great family trauma. But, I certainly understand the reasons for emotional pain.
I came away feeling torn between survival and idealism. I hated what was done to people of color in the name of greed, power and even christianity. But, I also hated some of the response to it. I don’t like division at all. But I understand the need for self-preservation and protection. I absolutely hate that humans have a mindset of “better me than you” but I understand we live in an imperfect world. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech was about a dream. And it many ways, it remains just that, a dream. It was a hopeful vision. And I believe we have seen glimpses. But, if the last 8 years have taught me anything, it’s that hate still lives. Hate clothed as survival still lives. It seems unfathomable to me that people would think about each other in a certain way. It seems crazy to think that we would think about other human beings as less than human.
As I drive past the supermarket near my home, there are always a few people who have signs. Some are former vets. Some are disabled somehow. All are struggling. Most don’t have a place to live and are just trying to get enough to stay at an unkept motel for the night. We don’t seem to see them as much in the summer, although they’re there. They’re invisible people. But in the winter months, their coats blow in the wind and their worn faces see us as we drive by. They can’t look at us anymore. It’s as if their gaze has become hardened to the idea of being ignored. When you do stop to say hello or give some help, their eyes lift as if they are just for a moment beginning to recognize humanity again. Their color doesn’t matter. We don’t care about them.
How did we get here? I wondered how it even became possible that a particular culture of people could so dominate the world that in many places, people of darker hues are looked down upon. I wondered why humans would feel the need to enslave. I wondered how people in their minds justified the criminal, abominable treatment they gave to others and still give in many ways.
But, I remembered a Bible verse my Dad shared when I asked these questions as a kid. “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof, are the ways of death.” My goodness. Do we all feel that what we are doing is right? When we commit crimes, do we feel it is right? When we enslave, do we feel it is right? When we talk negatively, criticize and downgrade others, do we feel it is right? When we use language that constantly pits one group against another, do we feel it is right? Unfortunately, I’ve come to know the answer is yes. I know because I was grown up in a culture where division was the norm. I was taught formally and informally that black people were a certain way and white people were a certain way. I was taught that I was black. But I was also taught that people darker than I am weren’t black because they spoke a different language.
I reject it! I’m not black because you say I am. I’m not a slave because you say I am. I’m not less because you say I am. I’m not weak because you say I am. I’m not caged because you intended to make me feel that way. I’m not cornered and categorized because you sought to hold me down. I’m not who you say I am.
I refuse to accept the words you use to denigrate me.
I reject the tactic of having to re-assign meaning to words you used to discriminate against me simply so I could feel better about its continued existence.
You say black because you wanted to equate me with darkness. That doesn’t work for me and I don’t accept it.
I’m not darkness. Light lives within me. I choose to shine!
I’m proud! To quote Marianne Williamson, “I’m powerful beyond measure.”
The conflict still exists but my resolve is strengthened.
I move forward today because the only one who can stop me is me.
- I realize I added an element of homelessness into the article. However, I wanted to simply write without being boxed today. This might reflect my sense of conflict about our humanity and our behavior.
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About The Author
My name is Robert Kennedy III. I’m a leadership and communication speaker, trainer and author. I recently released 7 Ways To Know You Were Meant To Lead on Amazon. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebookor on my website, RobertKennedy3.com.