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August 9th, 2008
08:24 PM ET

T.D. Jakes: How do you respond to “I don’t want to get blacker, Daddy!”

Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET


We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.

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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/23/art.bia.jakes2.jpg]
Bishop T.D. Jakes
Senior Pastor, The Potter’s House

I am delighted to see a continued rational discussion about race relations in this country. I know many find it painful and some would rather not discuss it at all. But like a good marriage, sometimes communication is the only way to create unification. Therefore, I applaud CNN for having the foresight to lead a discussion that hopefully will produce more love and a shared concern for people you see every day but might not know what they see when they live in the same world and breathe the same air that you do.

Often I pen words as a pastor, sometimes as an entrepreneur, and occasionally as a citizen with an opinion. But today, I have been asked to share a story as a father, and a person of color, who knows firsthand the challenges of raising children of color. I love this country and I am very proud to be an American. In spite of its many challenges and disappointments, I fervently believe that the benefits of living in the United States ultimately outweigh the liabilities.. But in the interest of sharing a “what is it like to be you” story, I will add this one to the discussion. To be sure, we are not all monolithic. Many, many, blacks have raised their children surrounded by masses of blacks and have faced a different challenge than mine.

I have twin boys who are almost 30 years old now. But when they were very young, I was sitting with both of them in the predominantly white environment of my home in West Virginia talking about things fathers discuss with their sons. I shared with one of my sons, that when I was his age my skin tone was very much like his, very light. In a matter of fact way, I mentioned that as I got older, my skin darkened and changed to become much more like his brother’s skin, which was darker.

My son, whose skin tone was lighter, began to cry profusely. I was befuddled by his reaction, but when your 7-year-old is crying without a reason and you love him, you investigate it immediately! So I asked him why he was crying. He blurted out, “I don’t want to get blacker, Daddy!” He looked at me in total anguish and said something that left me astounded. He said, “Because if you are black they hate you more.” He cried so hard that I took him in my arms so that he couldn’t see that I too was shedding a tear or two, myself. I was hurt for both of my sons, and I was hurt with them.

I was stunned. How could I have let myself be so busy trying to provide for my family, that I didn’t realize how I had not equipped them for the harsh realities of a world that can at times be both cold and unwelcoming to those who are outside of our “norm?” Do not misunderstand me, I know all too well from my own experiences, how things can be when you are a minority in a majority world. But what I didn’t know, was that this 7-year-old had encountered this level of anguish at such an early age, and that he had resolved in his own way that if he could avoid getting any blacker he might not have to feel the painful consequences of looking different. I doubt that it was overt racism, no sheets draped over the heads of the KKK, or Rodney King style beat downs in the back of the school. No, these were tears running down the face of a child who had been victimized by subtle covert racist distinctions right in front of my face and I didn’t even know it was happening in his world.

I sat on the floor holding two weeping children as my wife and I began to explain what a gift it is to be yourself, and to love who you are and how you are made. I told them how wonderfully God has created them in the skin they were in! It led to one of the richest, most rewarding discussions of my children’s lives and they still refer to it to this day!

It was then that it became crystal clear the importance of teaching our children the value of being African American and the value of their own self-worth. Sadly when one speaks of this teaching – African Americans to love themselves, their community or accomplishments, many outside of the realities of our life relegate such pride inappropriately as prejudice. I dare say that no race is exempt from prejudice and blacks like all people can have their biases. But pride and prejudice are not the same thing at all. In fact without the conscious effort to give black children the supplement of self esteem to replace the steady diet sent through media and other methods of communication that subtly suggest inferences of inferiority, they live with a disadvantage that is difficult to overcome in early their ages. Our children desperately need to see people who look like them, who have done well and have been accepted by mainstream America so they will know that it is possible. Today we are seeing more black, brown, and female faces slipping through the glass ceiling to positions of prominence and finding there a new breed of more accepting people. We all need a conscious concerted effort to help showcase these persons to whom young Blacks, Latinos and girls can aspire. Still we who are in the village that cares for children of all races, must be careful to insure that we do not innocently or consciously malign innocent minds with insensitivity to the unique nuances of their needs.

Looking back at that moment with my sons, my regret at that moment was that I had not started sooner. My tears resulted from outrage and shame. I was outraged because the children who I loved were dealing with such hideous experiences so early; and I was ashamed that I was so busy struggling to feed them that I didn't think to equip them sooner for the harsh realities to which I naively thought they hadn’t experienced. I was wrong!

This lack of “self-love” and the negative self-image that accompanies it, is not limited to those children raised in the inner city. Though my wife and I were struggling financially at the time, my older children were never raised in the inner city and grew up in what would be ordinary neighborhoods of moderate- to middle-class income. No sagging pants, no boom boxes, and no gangs were prevalent at the time. Instead they attended what I thought were good schools, we had low crime, well manicured lawns, active PTA’s, youth programs – the true American dream. Believe it or not, it is easy to become almost invisible in even these otherwise wholesome environments. Their classrooms were predominantly white, the teachers, principals and staff were generally white, their sports and, cheerleading teams were primarily white, as were the dances and birthday parties they attended. Without a strong injection of self-worth and appreciation for their differences, these types of experiences can leave many children of color losing themselves, trying to fit in with others.

If one takes a look at many of the social ills that haunt the African-American community – the proliferation of gangs, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, high school drop out rates, lower test scores – much of it can be tied back into a lack of self appreciation of who they are. To be sure, many of our families have been self-destructive, and some have been admittedly extremely dysfunctional. There is no question that we are not without some blame for many of the challenges we face today. The self-esteem issues are exasperated by absentee fathers, substance abuse, and many other circumstances that add to the conundrum of the lagging behind of our people. Yet, I shared my story to say that even when a black family overcomes those hurdles, and the father is at home, the family is stable, and the parents are involved with the school, etc., there is still an added invisible weight that saddles down the mind and cripples the soul of our children at incredibly early ages.

The baggage of being different is only crippling when the child is left to carry it without an intentional awareness of cultural diversity, sensitivity training and supervision in private and public schools to ensure that what they learn at school is education and not the devaluation that comes when those who make decisions do not look like the ones they decide about.

I am reminded of the young mainstream girls that we have seen and read about because of their struggle with bulimia and anorexia. They are bombarded with images everywhere you turn of rail thin women and are told, this is beautiful. Similarly, my children were bombarded with images of blonde, straight hair, blue-eyed children and were told this is beautiful. Their perception of normal was skewed based on their surroundings. The take away message is that if you are going to integrate the class, the staff, the pictures, the books, then all involved must reflect that commitment to ensure a healthy environment for those we seek to serve.

If all else fails, it must be the responsibility of the parents to instill the worth and value into our children as early and as often as possible. We must not shirk that responsibility. But if we can gain help from all people to make sure that no person is left dreading the skin they are in, we will really be the people that God meant for us to be. If people in general, and children in particular, are not exposed to their own culture, music, dance and food, all of us have to work to make sure that they experience that exposure. They must see images on the wall and around them that reflect their characteristics, and teach them to enjoy their unique appearance, language, skin tone or whatever it may be that sets them at risk of being a part.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words still ring soundly today, “Judge me on the content of my character and not the color of my skin.” Can a brother get a good Amen?

Editor’s Note: Bishop T.D. Jakes is a senior pastor of The Potter’s House. Over 10 years the church has grown from 50 families to more than 30,000 members with a nationally syndicated TV program.


Filed under: Bishop TD Jakes • Black in America
soundoff (557 Responses)
  1. Dustin

    I feel this article is in keeping with the theme "Black in America." It fully reflects the plight of that people– without neglecting other social biases and prejudices.

    Good job.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  2. Fay, CA

    Thank you TD Jakes for this excellent essay–it is sad that many African-Americans still have this idea that "black is bad" and their self-esteem is fractured, so it is important to have positive images of blacks and role models such as yourself to counteract some of the negativity that is out there.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  3. Jenna

    I would have been heartbroken for my daughter in this situation. I agree that we should teach our kids to loveand respect themselves as well as others no matter what color they are or what someone looks like.

    How can you and otehrs sit there and say the comments to love yourself and love others when youhave said so many mean spirited things about Gay individuals. I am a Gay individual and my daughter is being brought up in a same sex household filled with love, kindness, and affection. Yet she will come home one day (she is only 4 now) and be upset becasue someone hates her because she has two moms. This is where the real insanity is in this nation. All People whould be treated with kindness and respect, no exceptions. Race issues in this country are a deplorable mark that will never be forgotten, nor should they. There is still a huge distance to go but how can we ever get there if we condone discrimination on one group but not the other. Either one believes in equality or does not. You cannot have it both ways.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  4. IrishAmerican

    Good Sir,

    I was very touched by your article, and I hope that all people, of all races, colors, religions, sexual preferences, genders and cultures can practice this compassion and hope for positive change in their daily lives.

    With that being said, I must ask something. I am an Irish-American from New England who has recently moved to the South. While living the majority of my life in the North, I never ran into any racial issues at all with anyone of any color. Not once. I have lived in the South for two years now, and I am a minority in my neighborhood as a white woman. I have seen, firsthand, the racial divide here, but I have not seen it toward African Americans. I have seen it toward white people, and have experienced it many times within the past two years, while minding my own business. How is it that the two poles of the country can be so different in their racial views? I was completely astonished by how white people were being treated in my neighborhood. Also, the use of the N-word within the race was another new characteristic to me. I had heard it in music in the past, but never experienced it in such casually high volume before between two or more people of color. Why do they use the term as a friendly calling, while it is historically the worst word ever created in any language?

    I am very confused about the difference in the two areas of the country. I don't mean to disrespect, but is it a lack of education? A lack of instilled self-respect as children? Or is it ignorance? I believe that everyone – all races, religions, colors, sexualities – should treat others as they themselves would like to be treated. When everyone can respect themselves and others, then the wall dividing understanding and ignorance can be brought down. My question to you, sir, is how to go about that?

    July 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  5. Raven

    Everyone of mixed heritage knows the harsh realities of society's shortcomings. The most we can hope for is the ability to hold our heads up at the end of the day, look ourselves in the mirror and think, "Hey, I'm okay."

    July 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  6. Kiki

    You know it amazes me how the prejudice of people can shine even through the powerful message of Bishop TD Jakes. Though his message was race and gender inclusive still people found a way to make something wrong with it. Since when does having a main stream dicussion about race constitute a victimization mentality or whining? Discussing the race relations that exist in this country does not constitute of whining or a victimization mentality when there is a school system failing our young children and a jail system waiting to lock them up. So to you racist and prejudice people who wonder why discussions about race relations are needed... just look in the mirror BECAUSE YOU ARE THE REASON. Us "VICTIMS" will move on when the racists that exist in world seize to exist.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  7. Ken

    Many of us have been discussing these things for years. Check out the book by the great W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, for a brilliant treatment of this very subject!

    July 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  8. Vanessa

    PLEASE PUBLISH THIS!!!!

    It is REALLY distressing to hear how this beautiful article can be taken out of context and made into a bad thing. All these Latinos who are writing how the black community doesn't do enough to embrace them. I'm practically falling out of my chair. This article is about black people taking responsibility for themselves. Latinos always cry this we are discriminated against too!! I'm sorry but history tells a different story. Mexican Americans and Latinos in general were not subject to Jim Crow. Latino Ameriocan children went to school with white kids and were not lynched like blacks were. Most Latino Americans identified as white before the 70's and still do. But the civil rights struggle which was carried by black folks risking their lives, churches being bombed, leaders being shot, children beat in the street allowed Latinos to change their identity and take advantage of Affirmative Action. In the 50's Ricky Ricardo was Lucille Ball's husband on television. And if that doesn't bake your noodle consider this: throughout Latin America the darker you are the worse off you are. The segragation of schools in Brazil is something akin to the U.S. in the 50's and the young people–the YOUNG PEOPLE, are indifferent to it. Racism is rampant in the Latino community but the response to changing it is, "stop whining." If you look at the unemployment rate amongst the darker, Mayan, people of Mexico and compare it to rates amongst the white Mexicans, it is shocking how disproportionate it is. The reason so many of these Mayan people love it here so much is because here they can get a job and support their family and here they are not at the bottom of the totem pole because at the end of the day being Latino is better than being black. I challenge every Latino American who reads this to consider the REALITY of their native land. Take a good look. No matter where you go in this world to be dark is to be at the bottom.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  9. Mrs. Davis

    To Tom:
    It's true that many other children have physical differences that can be perceived as negative and criticized. But being black is still different than most of these other conditions. Disabilities can be overcome. Short people can take growth hormones, wear elevator shoes/heels. Freckles can be cosmtically removed. People can have eye surgery to correct imperfect vision. If you're overweight, you can choose to lose it–either surgically or through diet and exercise. However, if you are black, unless you want to disfigure yourself like some entertainers have, you have to stay that way and become comfortable with it. It is just not the same and presents a unique challenge for parenting.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Dan in B-more, hon.

    I agree with JC and the others. The major problem I see today (granted, as a white male) is the divisive nature of the race discussion, that the decendants of African slaves are more subject to the pitfalls of racism than others, even recent African immigrants.

    I live in Baltimore, and there is a pervasive culture - not uniform, but prevalent - reinforcing the idea of the black person, especially the black male, as a victim of American society. However, once outside of that culture, the playing field is quickly leveled.

    The problem, as I see it, is the continued ghettoization of black people by black leaders and by others who depend on a captive, consolidated bloc of individuals for their economic success. By this, I mean the Jesse Jacksons of the world, the urban mayors of the world, the FUBU-styled businesses, the political candidates from swing jurisdictions who depend on a "safe vote".

    It is very convenient to some to have black people as athletes, musicians, drug dealers, thugs, and bums. It reinforces stereotypes and reinforces the status quo, keeping government programs and government leaders chugging along, coffers full.

    It's unfortunate, because I have met great people of all ethnicities. But for the most part, in America, opportunity is laid at the doorstep of all of its citizens. The question is whether you persevere, in light of the very real obstacles that may be laid in your path (regardless of the source or the reason), or you simply allow the naysayers to dominate the conversation. Unfortunately, too few in the black community have stepped up to grasp the gauntlet thrown down by Martin Luther King 40 years ago, and too many in that same community continue to live off their own people, be it through criminal thuggery or political thuggery.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  11. AT

    This is truly a great story. No one can argue with a person's experience. It is unrealistic to believe that our race does not encounter hardships. Yet we must overcome them and speak greatness on ourselves. I have had many negative experiences that were very painful to me. Yet when I toured the slave castles in West Africa I was ashamed of myself. I am a strong woman because of the strong men and women that lived before me. I praise God for who I am and I know that our culture has been portrayed in a negative light in many instances. I have both parents, great extended family, wonderful neighbors, educators, and clergy that shaped my life. Thank you Bishop Jakes for sharing your personal family experience with the world.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  12. David - Harrisburg, PA

    Bishop T.D. Jakes, this is a story that should be told over and over. Most of us get it and for those that truly believe in diversity and wishes for a color blind society can be helped by reading this repeatedly and they too will get it.

    In order for a society to heal itself from the ills of societal divisiveness it has to acknowledge that it exist...without admission this discussion will continue with no end in sight.

    "America the Great Experiment" will achieve this, time is on its side and we will be the model for other nations to emulate. This will symbolize America's sigh.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “Judge me on the content of my character and not the color of my skin” will no longer be a plea but reality.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  13. janet narine

    Answer to one blogger, T.D. Jakes was a millionaire BEFORE HE WAS A PREACHER, read the history of the man. He is a respected preacher, listen to him sometimes, he does not sugar coat what he preaches to black people. He is an excellent preacher/teacher. I always tune in to listen on Sunday after my own Church Service, and I am not black. God Bless you Bishop Jakes, continue the good work.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  14. Arianna

    People who are not black reading this....stop embarassing us none blacks by coming on here and ranting about TD Jakes and how he is wrong and blah blah blah. The man is inspirational and this letter is supposed to be a good thing. How some of you are getting offended, I do not understand...immaturity, racism, ignorance, etc. But please...open your eyes and heart and except this messege!

    July 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  15. KC

    Jeff, I have to disagree with your statement "all but white children face it...". White children do face it, just in a different way. You can't be too smart, or you're labeled as a nerd. You can't be too fat, or you're called names. Labels and stereotypes. At one point or another it happens to all children. Kids are cruel, especially in the middle school years, and they're pretty universally cruel. They learn this behavior from their peers and their families. Change has to start at home.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  16. Viv

    It's very sad but true.The lighter the colour of skin, the more preferential treatment you get.And what's worse, it is from white and black races alike.
    I have been dark-skinned all my life and have had more than my fair share of such ostracism, simply because of the colour of my skin.It has not always been easy, but there is a Living God, who makes all things well and soothes hurt feelings.So still I abide.
    A very good contribution Pastor.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  17. Harold Amina

    We all have something in common – the price of gas is the same for all of us and keeps going up. However, the price for being different is not. That price has not gone down as much as it should have over the years.
    You'll find a sale or a price reduction in certain areas here and there. Hopefully, as young minds are taught to think, reason, and pray about proper perspectives about themselves, they'll be better equipped to absorb the extra costs as they come along – and they will. On another note – one healthy voice of reason over the last 35 years was the late Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood – he had and to this day likely has the most consistently diverse set of guests on his show ever! A good, calming balance for young children of all backgrounds.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  18. Pat

    I have to agree with Tom and Mario J. The blacks think they are the only ones who suffer racism. Racism isn't about being black. i am a white middle aged woman who grew up in eastern Canada. in a black and white town. Before I started school,Ii didn't think anything of it. Some people had darker skin ans some people had lighter skin. So what? Then I started school...5 yrs old..I was "white trash" and because of that I was spit on, kicked, beat up, had lunch stole, slapped in the face I could go on. By the time I was 10, I was terrified of anyone with black skin..NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE BLACK BUT BECAUSE THEY BEAT ME UP BECAUSE I WAS WHITE! The teachers and parents said that if they tried to stop it, thet woud be racist. That was the first i heard of it. I do hurt for blacks who have been treated badly because of skin color. But why can't hey see that it is two sided. Whites are treated terrible by other races because we are white!!

    July 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  19. JO

    Now, I think every person is unique. Every culture has an agenda, yada, yada, yada. But to be the person to put all that hatred, indifference and prejudice aside is the real goal. I feel his speech is one sided. Although I think it a great speech I wonder how much of the sermon is to include ALL "God's people". To quote "The baggage of being different is only crippling when the child is left to carry it without an intentional awareness of cultural diversity, sensitivity training and supervision in private and public schools to ensure that what they learn at school is education and not the devaluation that comes when those who make decisions do not look like the ones they decide about." Does this county for a gay child? Prejudice and discrimination extend way beyond race. I wonder how many of the comments on here would have lauded the preacher for telling a story about how his "gay" child felt hated.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  20. Elizabeth M.

    Thank you for sharing this story. My husband is from another country, and already my 6 year old son is concerned about being the "darkest" of my three children. It has been shocking for me to see just how early that children are skin color aware and have negative perceptions with being too dark. I really appreciate your insights.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  21. cp

    I've read some of these comments and I see that ignorance is bliss. I know that racism/prejudice exist everywhere. Does that mean I succumb to it? No. I hate the expression, "the white man trying to keep me down". Nobody can keep me down except for me. It seems that many of you have let the media shape your opinion on everything that is black. It's obvious you know very little about black culture and all the people that make up that culture. While growing up I had caucasian friends, hispanic friends, asian friends, etc. That doesn't make me an expert on their culture nor qualify me to make blanket statements concerning their culture. What I do know is that I experienced racism first-hand and I learned to brush off my shoulders and keep moving. Racism still exists whether you choose to believe it or not. Many of us handle it the right way. Many of us don't.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  22. Anthony Smith Sr.

    Amen. Bishop Jakes you are truly a inspiration to the body of christ. We should try to get a million men to your father ,son event in March 2009,Gaylord ,TX. Keep uplifting the mutlitude of people from around the world with your preaching and teaching of our father "WORD". Amen. GOD BLESS YOU and YOUR FAMILY.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  23. lp

    I am an African-American woman who has done quite well for herself through the grace of God. None of us can judge the other until we have walked in each other's shoes. Bishop Jakes was sharing a personal story, like so many of you I can relate to what you have experienced. While, I will agree that America is the land of opportunity and it is what we make it. I will also agree that some races, groups, religions have a harder time in this society. CNN choose to air this segment today, but who knows what is in the works for other ethnic, religious or sexual orientation groups at a later date. Instead of looking for our differences, we should embrace the opportunity to learn. I am very proud to be an American. But I am also conscience that this country has issues on all sides of the table. Let's pray that as a nation we continue to strive to learn about the wonderful diversity that we have in this country.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  24. Maria Cristina

    Pastor Jakes,
    I am a 43 year old caucasian woman, of Italian descent, who is proud to see her son, born of a marriage with a black American, cherishing his double heritage. He thrives on the fact that he – not by any means of a privileged background, mind you – is able to reap the good and the bad from each of us and somehow, discern the wheat from the chaff. I think this sense of belonging must start from the home, regardless of the demands of society. Utopian, some may say, but it can be done. He is living proof of that, notwithstanding the fact that he does struggle immensely with his money, with his job, with the every day living that is now part and parcel of the commodity that is living in America, he still has a sense of inner discernment that ultimately makes or breaks an individual and a racial background alike. The lines are blurred between a societal responsibility and a familial one.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  25. frank de freitas

    I am the proud father of two children, one black and one white. When very young, I told my daughter that she has to become twice as accomplished as a male to be considered equal and I told my son he has to be twice as as accomplished to be considered equal to a caucasian. Today they are both married, both successful, and both honours graduates – one a doctor, the other doing a second master's degree. How much difference did my comment to them make? No idea. They never did tell me. They are both salt of the earth.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  26. Lorie KC

    Thank you for this article. As the white mother of a latino child, I have learned that skin color prejudice is alive and well in the US. It is not blatent (ie KKK, segregation) but it is there in the subtle ways Mr. Jakes mentions. Your honesty is appreciated.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  27. S

    Sir – When are you running for President? I want my president to be an inclusive man and not someone like Obama who goes to great lengths to deny his muslim roots. Like Obama I am of mixed descent but Obama has disappointed me by denying his roots. Roots are what define us. I tell my self discrimination is a fact of life but I will not let it put me down.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  28. Phil

    I don't disagree with Jake's article, but I can't help but wonder if pulling scab from the race wound at this critical junction in the presidential election is a very underhanded way of reminding American's that Obama is Black! Just as Hillary and company attempted in the primary. Anderson Cooper and Soladad Obrian just might be playing the "race card" with this "Black in America" series?

    I think that American's are most interested in the economy, gas prices, and losing thier homes. Is this a clever trick?

    July 23, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  29. paulino

    I'm a 53 yr. old Chicano from Texas and my beautiful grandchildren are mixed "Brown and Darker Brown". My grandson is 7 yrs. old and he is into the game "Guitar Hero". One day we got on the internet and I showed him the original rock and roll guitar hero, in my point of view, "Chuck Berry". After seeing the video he stated, "But that man is Black, isn't there a White guitar player". That shocked me and I told him that he's half-Black and should be proud of both his races. I also told him that when you grow up you'll find out that anyone who is part Black will be considered by society as only Black. When I saw my son-in-law I mentioned it to him. He thought he's picking up certain ways of thinking from his little friends at school. I have been "color-blind" as far back as I can remember and I taught my now-grown-children the same thing. I want my grand-children to grow up the same way so I believe we all got to keep-on-keeping-on until our last breath. It not only takes a village, but a village of different shades. And here's you AMEN bro. Vaya Con Dios, Adios

    July 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  30. Krissy

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments. You made me think. In my mind I was thinking about the lack of self-esteem I had as a young white girl – but poor. There was never any overt critcism, but kids notice differences automatically and can feel they are different. I was glad to hear the comparison to girls and bulimia. It is a universal problem for children, but obviously more apparent when your skin is different.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  31. KC

    Relle,

    The word is "enslaved", and white people throughout history have been enslaved as well. In fact, peoples from all races and cultures have been slaves at one time or another. Not to say slavery is not a horrendous act of terror against human beings, but there hasn't been slavery in this country for nearly 150 years, and it's time for people of all colors to take responsibility for lifting themselves up, and stop trying to blame everything on the slavery of their ancestors. The opportunities exist, but only some of us care about ourselves enough to grasp them and run. What needs to happen is for the black community to teach our children to love themselves and each other as they are, and to strive to better themselves each and every day, not to expect something to be handed to them. I came from a working class family and made something of myself because education was stressed in my two parent household. We need to get off the welfare merry-go-round and reduce the number of single mother (or grandmother) households in order for equity to ever become a reality.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  32. V

    The Pastor's reflection led me to focus not so much on color but on Family.

    Dare I say that 44 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most daunting challenge facing people of color is how to re-affirm the importance of Family. As an administrator at a private school in the Nation's capital, 80% of my students exist (not live) in homes headed by females. There are of course the exceptions but let's face it, moms, this is not the ideal you envisioned. The tentacles of poverty run far and wide (for the kids, their families, and the communities in which they live.) These kids are literally 5-runs down in the bottom of the 1st inning.

    In 1965, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan penned the work,
    "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." In it he identified the breakup of black families as a major impediment to black advancement. At that time in history, this message did not go over too well in most communities – as you can imagine. Fast forward 44 years (though he left us in 2003) his words are now seen as "an important and prophetic document," in the words of Prof. William Julius Wilson of Harvard.

    Yes, it is true that the community has made tremendous advancements over the decades since the turmoil of the 50s and 60s, but if we are having an "open" discussion about CNN's Black in America, we must ponder the question: Is the black Family truly better off now than it was pre-1965?

    Not a sermon, just a thought.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  33. Beckie

    I have the privilege of watching the Bishop's service on Sunday morning as I get ready to go to church. I am not a person of color, but I am a person who has experienced bigotry on far too many occasions. I felt for the Bishop as he had to explain to his children why they are different and tried to help them in their struggle for self esteem. This kind of struggle does not apply only to the matter of color.

    In our efforts to walk through this life with Christly love toward one another, we must see each other with the eyes of Christ. We are all God's children, and this makes us all sisters and brothers in Him. Learning to appreciate each other means that we need to look past our differences.

    I wish that the Bishop would preach on the matter of sexual orientation and how this is a matter of birth rather than choice – just as race is not a choice. As a Christian woman, I would appreciate someone having the grit to tackle this subject with honesty. Can I get an AMEN??

    July 23, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  34. Angelica

    JC: this comment is directly especially to you and anyone else who believes that the black community simly needs to "get over it". The fact that you can bring your fingers to type those words proves our point. White America has yet to fully acknowledge the impact slavery and years and years of discrimination had on the black community. I am a black female who grew up in Orange County, California. I'm just a stone's throw away from you J.C. Do you know how it feels to wake up in the morning with a cross burning in your front yard? Do you know how it feels to have people call you a "n–ger" when all you did was walk pass them on the street? Do you know how it feels to be discriminated against? These aren't things you simply "get over"! It becomes and shapes the way you view life and the people who are in it. I do agree with Bishop Jakes that we must first learn self-love and then use that love to encourage others to see "us" the way we see ourselves, but until and unless America in general realizes that depsite its best efforts, there are still overwhelming numbers of racists in this country and that BLACKS tend to be the object of that repeaded racisim, then we will never be able to simply "get over it". Just for the record, I am an extrememly successful wife, mother and employee of a huge oil company in Texas. I am articulate, very well educated and laugh at people who "try" to discriminate against me. That being said, I completely and totally sympathize and understand how many who share my skin color who have YET to "escape" the pains of everyday racisim cannot get over it. It is a pain that runs deep, it is a pain that can only be overcome with time, patience and understanding........understanding that must come from people like you who need to realize that by telling us to "get over it", you are, in essence, minimalizing our pain and our struggles. God Bless You J.C. I hope your life is filled with love and happiness. God Bless you Bishop Jakes....you are an absolute inspiration. God Bless this wonderful country which will ONE DAY be able to put its past behind it, but please know..........it took America a LOOOOOONG time to end slavery, allow "us" some time to "get over it". God Bless everyone reading my post and thank you for your time. I truly hope I did not offend. :o)

    July 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  35. Jake145

    Some people will get offended by anything. This was a good article. Take it for what it's worth people, stop looking for a reason to be offended.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  36. Chuck

    Bishop Jakes,

    I appreciate your commentary and I believe that appreciation of diversity is taught at home. My wife and I try to instill in our daughter that all people are beautiful and have infinite worth. Our God created man (passage devoid of color reference and includes both male and female) in his own image and as such each of us derives our beauty from the creator. No person is of greater value than the next person in the eyes of God, and so no person should have greater value placed on he/she than the next person. Each of us, at one time or another have been belittled by someone based on the way God made us. From skin color, to body shape, to mental capacity, to physical limitations, someone at some point has made each of us feel like we are worth less than they are. For some, self-worth is part of their DNA, but in most cases it is a learned trait. Our jobs as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters and brothers, friends and acquaintances is to continually each day focus on uplifting and edifying those who surround us and demonstrate how much they are worth to us and to this world.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  37. Josue Velasquez

    bishop T.D. Jakes may the Lord keep blessing you and your family thank you for those words of wisdom that God gave you.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  38. Obi. Charlotte, NC

    Thank you Bishop Jakes for that wonderful story. As an African immigrant raising three young sons here in the US, I also sometimes take for granted that my children would not be sensitive about their skin color, much in the way that I had no need to be for most my adult life. But as as they grow up, I am reminded by articles such as yours that carefully cultivating worth in one's self is a burden that must be borne by parents as we raise our children.

    Also, I agree that much as society is changing and overall acceptance of differences is becoming the norm rather than the exception, it still behoves the black community to rise to the challanges of the present,"leaving behind what is past" to raise a generation of children that will take their rightful place in this present time we live in. It is great to be able to discuss so openly what used to be taboo issues in the past

    July 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  39. Angel Castro

    God made us all same internally to love on another.
    Unfortunately because of the fall of man and because of our rejection of his Son Jesus Christ there will always be hate and racism in this world nothing will change until his rerturn no matter what promises are made by man.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  40. Will

    Reverand, have you turned on the TV and watched any documentaries on the gangs that are prevelant in the USA now. 99% of violent gangs are black or latino. Now, don't get me wrong, I use the term black in the same context that I call myself white, but I do not go around demanding that I be called a White-American or an Anglo-American. The violent gangs need to be delt with no matter what color they are. The black community needs to address the issues of getting their children educated and acting civil. Remeber, the currrent white population did NOT enslave anyone and the black mindset of entitlement has done the most harm to Rev. King's legacy. Rev. Jackson showed what he really thought the other day by what he said. The black community should disenfrachise people like Jackson and Farrakan so that the issues of race can move forward and not be stuck in the past. Reverend, please keep working toward mutual understanding, but please work to move toward the future. It's not 1964 any more. Remember, being Civil is the beginning of Civilization.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  41. Sonia

    You can't be indifferent to your neighbor and call yourself a human being. That's not acceptable. Race matters if you are White or Black, and sometimes ethnicity creeps up on you too. I can't relate to a White woman's experience in Newton just like she can't relate to my Black experience in Dorchester. But I can listen and respect it.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  42. Eugene

    Touching, but at age seven I suspect that the fear of becoming darker skinned stemmed more from what was heard within the family and community about how white society was abusing you. If you are constantly being told you are a victim, you begin to believe it.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  43. Demetria LeBlanc

    Bishop Jakes, I totally agree with your article. I'm a black mother of three young men (ages 18, 17, &14). I grew up in a predominantly white society, I experienced racism on both ends. In the white community where I went to school and lived, I was too black because sometimes I was the only one, which was lonely. In the black neighborhood where my cousins lived, I was not black enough and called white girl. Needless to say, I grew up with a severe self esteem complex of not knowing who I was because I was always changing trying to fit in and please my immediate company. I wanted it to be different for my boys, so I put them in schools that had a diverse christian culture, which allowed them to be themselves and interact with other cultures as well. I didn't have a father and mother to sit me down. I just had a single mother that was struggling to raise two boys and a girl in a complex society, so most things I had to figure out for myself. It has taken me a lifetime to know the real me and love who I am.

    To those that ask what about this race or that race of people or sexuality, the artticle is based on being "Black in America". STAY ON TOPIC.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  44. Kris

    It makes my skin crawl that someone would care what color someone else's skin color is. To go a step further, how black a black person is. I am white and I truly do not understand racism. It makes absolutely no sense to me. People hating homosexuals doesn't make sene to me; Christians who believe that Jews will never make it into heaven makes no sense to me(okay, so I am a agnostic lesbian); I am just naive enough to believe that live and let live is a truism. Please everyone, take a chill pill and make your lives easier by living and let live. I won't be there to hurt you and I am sure the blacks and Jews won't bite either.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  45. Skyla

    If you are so concerned about being labeled as "black" then why are you asking if a "brother" can get a good amen?

    July 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  46. bill

    Bishop Jakes,

    I read the story of your little boys with tears in my eyes. I can't for the life of me understand why whites feel superior to blacks. Honestly I can't understand why individual people feel superior to others for any reason. It just doesn't make sense to me.

    I'm a white dad to an internationally adopted Asian child, Vietnamese. Your story made me realise that I need to be more aware of my childs budding self-esteem and reinforce it. I need to make sure I do everything I can to counter the racism he will encounter as he grows. He's only 6 now and he sees that he is different. It's my job to make sure he realizes it a "good" difference, not a bad one. No matter what others may tell him.

    I love my child and I know you love yours. Thanks for your story.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  47. stargen

    Amen, Bishop Jakes; I consider you a leader for all regardless of race or creed. I have watched many of your programs on television, and have found you to be a captivating storyteller. Thank you for coming forth and sharing your story. My husband and I are raising two young (black) males, and it has not been an easy task. We have lived in a similar middle-class community as you described, and what I am seeing is that as my boys reached their early teens, they began seeking an identity. What scares us as parents are the “hip-hop” images that they are focusing on as a representation of what it is to be “Black”. We are from the Caribbean, and we want our children to be proud of who they are, however, that image is not what being a person of color is all about. As a race of people, we can do without that! I see from many of the commentary here, that while the majority of people support what you are saying, there is that small group that is going to take snippets and use it out of context, how unfortunate.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  48. Shawnee

    Thank you Bishop Jakes for sharing such a profound experience with us.

    I am a light skinned african american woman. I was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood and went to predominantly white schools. As a result, I wanted to be like the white kids. I had long thick jet black hair that i hated because it wasn't like the hair the white girl's had. I even went so far as to buy white hair products thinking that would help. I also made every effort to speak properly because I thought it would make me seem more White. Needless to say that I struggled with my own identity and self worth believing that being as white as possible would somehow make me more acceptable. Unfortunately, there was no one to tell me any different. My grandparents, who raised me, grew up in the south so their thinking and mindset was already distorted. However, I did finally open my eyes as I became a high school student, to the fact that there was nothing wrong with who I was. I was in advanced classed just like the white kids and performed as well if not better than many of them. Today, I am a proud black woman and no one can take that away from me. Yes, we live in a white dominated society but I must remember that I am just as good as any white person regardless of their status.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  49. KimT

    Each person has a right to voice their opinion on the subject at hand. Pastor TD Jakes simply told a heartfelt story that is extremely relevant at this present time. I can appreciate Pastor Jakes for taking the time to provide us with some food for thought. Everyone wants to point the finger at this and blame this other person but it's up to us as individuals, regardless of race, to make a difference. We tend to allow society to dictate how we should be, when we should be comfortable in our own skin. It seems like everyone wants to bring up Jeremiah Wright when speaking of racism. So what if you didn't like what Jeremiah Wright said in his sermon. That was what he wanted to preach about that particular Sunday and those were his beliefs. If you really understand the Bible then you would know and understand that no man who has walked this Earth is perfect except for The Lord. My Pastor preaches to our congregation all of the time about imperfections. Priests, Pastors, Clergymen...they are all just like you and me and they make mistakes. And sometimes they are mistakes that you may not agree with...and so what. Shake it off and move on. No one is forcing you to agree with anything. So...stop referring to that unfortunate piece of information into each article you read. Because that didn't have to do with racism...it had to do with him preaching on what he thought was right but many may view as wrong.
    Thank You Pastor Jakes for providing this great insight and I truly hope the Special – Black in America allows all races to really understand the struggles of African-Americans...past and present.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  50. Rose

    Cryonbrian- you are a hateful person, who obviously has no clue the challenges people of color experience. I, as a white woman, also don't understand these experiences, however, unlike you I try not to be a part of the hurt, racism, and ignorance. You sir,are the one that needs to get a grip.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
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