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.


[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)

    AMEN JC-Los Angles

    The black community as every opportunities as others, but most and this is whats so sad, are raised to "take" and not work for anything.
    We owe nothing its been paid in full....move on and stop handing it down from generation to generation.

    I had a friend that went to Mr Jakes church in Dallas and want to tell him thank you for his sermon. She walked towards the front and was stopped by his body gurads....I do think I've read any where in my bible that Jesus had body guards, or for that matter had to scream at any one to get His message across. hmmmmmm

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  2. Will - Los Angeles

    I live in Los Angeles as well.... however determining who constitutes the majority/minority has to do with much more than simple population statistics.

    Although the population alone may suggest that hispanics and other ethnic groups make up the majority, you also have to look at who operates and controls the dynamics that make up the city (i.e. politics, businesses, educational institutions, etc...) Even in Los Angeles this is not controlled by what we typically consider "minorities".

    And yes there are opportunities afforded to black community....as a young black lawyer I can personally attest to that. However to think that the comment "knowing how things can be when you are a minority in a majority world" is a dated, really show how far we still have to go.

    On occasion I listen and watch TD Jakes (my mother loves the man) and as someone about the same age as his sons who also grew up in a two-parent home in the suburbs, this issue is still an on-going struggle in my daily life. It wasn't until I entered the corporate workforce did I understand what my father meant when he said "a black man with a brain scares people much more than a black man with a gun".

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  3. Dave

    Thank you for so clearly illustrating this issue. If everyone would take the time to address these problems in the same way, then we could have real communication. I also thank you for your continued steadfastness in your Christian faith. It's very reassuring to see someone who is very prominent, that continues to set an example like you do, regardless for race, color, or gender. Some day I hope we will all appreciate the differences we have.

    By the way – I know it's not the same but it reminded me of a similar event, when sitting at the dinner table with my three boys, one of them was very upset when he told me he didn't want to grow hair on his chest when he grew up...

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  4. Vivian Rosandich

    When my daughter was 6 years old attending a school in southern Missouri – I was very upset when she came home from school crying. Some kids at school had called her a "Black N-– Lover" and had said mean things to her friend Lili. Her father and I ask her if Lili was Black? She said, "No – she is just like me. She just moved here too." I then ask her if Lili had dark skin or dark curly hair and my daughter said, "No her skin is just like mine and she has normal hair – like me and you mommy." We ask where Lili had moved from and our daughter replied , "well you know she moved from her old home. " A few weeks later Lili came over after school to play and stay for dinner and my husband and I was amazed to learn that Lili was from central Africa I think perhaps Zambia and her family had moved to this country for her father to attend college working on a PHD in Engineering.

    After almost 20 years I can still remember thinking that this was the true meaning of acceptance. I wish more people were just plain Americans – Instead of "African Americans" or some other "named" group.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  5. Chris Eaton

    I am a loyal follower of the bishop keep on preaching it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |

    Yeah that's surely good to share experiences about race here but as a pastor and "man of God" what have you done yourself to educate black people themselves? It's ok to have them come to church and Tv for your show but I don't much focus on education of black folks in churches including yours mister pastor. Church can do better than just collect money from people, you have to educate these folks so that they can see and walk by themselves. Also stop showing us how rich you are and how many Bentley and castle you have please. It's insane, it's insulting to poor people who come to church to pray while their money feeds your banking account. Teach your people to take chance and opportunities that are out there. There is nothing given per Se, ask parents to be involved in their children life, at all time. Ask the youth to stay in the house, yep they have to learn to come back and stay in the house, be with their family and not always looking for something they don't have in the streets....

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  7. margaret

    Your story is a poignant one and should be read and valued by whites (as I am ) and African Americans. Allow me to add what I feel is another possible contributing factor to your young son's reaction. Perhaps out of good intentions, white liberals in this country have felt it their responsibility to "teach tolerance." Unfortunately tis has led to an emphasis on the victimization of blacks and not the achievements. Public schools are sending the message "we are racist because we are white." Tolerance and brotherhood becomes condescension instead of respect. Yes the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement must be taught, but let's also speak those who rose to great heights in American history and culture, like Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, DuBois.... Black history month being filled with stories of only oppression and murder does not serve the education of either race. I say this not to ignore such an issue, but to stop teaching black children that they are victims, do not have a worthy place in our history (except as victims) and community, and will always be hated or pitied because they are black, and that not all white people are racist.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  8. EMC

    I agree with JC from Los Angeles. A person's standing and worth should be based upon, on one hand, their simple humanity, and on the other hand, their deeds.

    T.D. Jakes should just tell it like it is; racists needn't any recognition nor any acknowledgment. They are selfish fools. I would tell my children that there is no need to cry about the mean-spirited words and deeds of a racist. They don't hate on others because of skin color – they do it because they are sick inside. They cannot see the beautiful unity and harmony amid the diversity of God's creation; all they can see is themselves.

    Race, while an integral part of one's identitty, is of no matter to me or most fair minded people. I care much more about what you've done and contributed. I don't need any minority proving themselves to me for the sake of race relations... We are all human, one family. Transcend the petty divisions of the past, and look to the future!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  9. Amanda Cross

    As a young woman of mixed race, I understand the struggles encountered by many people who are minorities. As one who values fairness, I find myself straining to be considered equal with my fellow Americans. I used to believe that talking about the issue of racial inequality was fruitless and only caused more disunity. I have now come to believe that dialogue increases understanding and cohesiveness as long as both groups approach the issue with compassion and a willingness to grow and learn. I hope that the discussion will continue until racial inequality becomes obsolete. I admire those, like Bishop T.D. Jakes, who are willing and brave enough to tell their stories.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  10. Dan

    I believe the author should have told his young children, "...to value their own self-worth as a human being.". Regardless of race. I fear he, at that moment instilled racism into his children.

    Let us celebrate life! Leave racism to the racists and let the non-racists life loving humans live together happily.

    Parents of all color, please stop pointing out race/color differences. Please!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  11. ms ava

    Each group of minorities in this country has walked a different path of footprints from the other. Therefore no one group can understand or feel another's pain or struggles, it is just too deep within us.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  12. M.B

    My son attended a school for preschool, kindergarten and first grade that was predominately black. He had a book that answered a lot of questions children have, one being, "What makes a person's skin light or dark?" He learned about melanin and that the darker a person' skin is, the more melanin they have.

    He came home one day from school and told me that he wished he had more melanin in his skin so he could look like the other children at his school. To him, having dark skin was something to be had, and it warmed my heart to hear his disappointment that he would not have "more melanin in his skin".

    When we went to the local children's museum and saw the exhibit about Ruby Bridges, my son was quiet but attentive. He went back to school and, unbeknowst to me, the next time they went to the library, he got a book about her and read it. He mentioned to me a couple of week's later that in the book he read that every morning when the U.S. Marshall's walked Ruby to class in the predominately white school, she prayed and asked God to protect her.

    I'm doing my best to raise my son to love people based on who they are rather than what color their skin is. It is the greatest gift that I can give him...the ability to love.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  13. Michelle

    I've often wished I could ask black friends and coworkers "what's it like to be you?" but something has always held me back. Thanks for giving me a glimpse into your experience.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  14. JP

    This is exactly what we need to hear in these last days, for "if the trumpet gives an uncertain sounds who shall prepare himself for batle."

    July 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm |

    As a mother of a bi-racial son I stress to him the importance of embracing both heritages. I tell my son that he is no better or no worse then anyone else and he too was created special and unique and was a gift from God. Luckily for us we live in an area of Norther Virginia, my birth place, where diversity is embraced and we have not experienced any issues as a mulit-racial family. The funny thing is you can never judge a book by its cover. I am blonde, have grey eyes but my great grand father was bi-racial (black & white), my mother scottish and irish and my father german and native american. We are all Gods people and are all unique and special for he formed us in his image. No one is just white or black anymore, we are all mixed somewhere down the line. The most important thing I have taken from this article is be proud of who you are and always make time to talk to your children. It is important for them to know their heritage because they are the future.....

    July 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  16. Mick

    Anyone else notice the preponderance of "Black" stories on CNN? This is nothing less than media manipulation in an all out attempt to pump up the "white guilt" factor and elect Obama – the leftist media's Anointed One.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  17. Norma

    We are the only race came over here against our will and became slaves. Should I say more.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  18. Orlando Arkadie

    Good day, I thought the writing was well put, But there is missed topic that I beleive we missed in that writing "shade" bias. I dont know if people caught onto what was said but I did and that is the child had a problem with being "darker" than he was at that time. which meant that lighter skin was more acceptable than darker skin. This still exists in the media, suburban schools, urban schools anywhere there are people of different hues and yes it even exists in hispanic circles. It is the roots of self image issues that allows blacks to distinguish between classifications of beauty. That is a long talk when it comes to kids, one that can't be taken lightly as equality starts with self awareness i would think and helping in over coming those divisive issues we are better equipping our children to see true prejudices for what they are, foolishness.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  19. Sarah

    All children should be taught that skin color, race, gender etc are merely external trappings. Who you are and what you are worth is intensely personal, and can't be developed through association with groups that share a particularly characteristic. Absolutely: kids should take pride in their family and culteral history and never let anyone make them feel less than worthy because of a physical attribute. But encouraging kids to place their self-esteem in the collective reputation or association with a group (IE gay pride, black pride etc) is setting them up for an identity crisis and may even limit their ability to fulfill their dreams. For instance: if a child grows up believing that being black comes before being themselves, they may be discouraged from pursuing traditionally white fields. Success in those fields may earn them less respect among their "black" community, and if their self esteem is too closely tied to the approval of the community it can cause major internal conflict.

    The only way we'll ever overcome the sins of slavery and racism will be for all people to choose to believe in themselves, and not care if some idiot doesn't accept them because they are black, female, fat, gay, handicapped or whatever other characteristic that causes idiots to be, well, idiots.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  20. K.

    At JC: I think you missed the point.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  21. jck

    Amen! When are you running for President?????

    July 23, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  22. robert

    Powerful message Pastor. Powerful. Thanks for sharing.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  23. Bill

    Some people need reasons to hate, and some don't need a reason at all.

    Some people need a reason to complain, and some don't need a reason at all.

    Some people worry about others having more then them, while others worry about having less than others.

    Some people think they are better than others, and some people feel they are not better or worse than others. It should be a I am doing my best.

    Its not about lighter versus darker, its about evil people versus good people.

    I do not fear light or dark people, I fear people that want to hurt people in general. Why is it that people hate muslims & islamists who are mainly dark people. Terrorism of the times is the answer, we have not learned much from past Wars, but we are still learning, otherwise why is Obama doing so well. Why have their been Afrrican American, Italian, Irish, German, and polish mayors and governors. Why, cheap labor.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  24. cain kaura

    Great man of God. Always been blessed with wisdom and courage. We enjoy his preaching from way down in Africa continent and peoples' lives are being changed through television. Please keep up the good work. The word of God applies everywere in the world. This story teaches us a lot too!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  25. Brenda Milstead

    Very good article. I agree with exposure. I am a white female from the midwest & when I was in 2nd grade my father was transferred and we had to move to Jacksonville. I hated it at first but as I got older I did appreciate all the culture I was a part of daily. I was about 8 years old and we had a young teacher which actually had a week in her classroom of exploring diversity. All kids brought maps, food, religious books, stories, and some even family members that told a story. It was such a great experience for me I actually did the same thing with a group during girl scouts when I was a troop leader. I was overjoyed to see the girls learning so much from each other as I remembered so fondly from years ago. Sometimes when kids get information from each other it is just fun, but as they grow older you realize how much you learned about compassion, tolerance, agree to disagree and most of all we are all human. Everyone gets sad, laughs, cries, hurts, and has feelings. I really hope in the future as my generation grows older that racial issues will fade or go away. Lastly, I have this habit (because I believe we are all equal) I check other for my race on forms and write human. Some people think it is funny or make comments, but those forms need to vanish.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  26. James

    JC – not a dated comment at all. People such as yourself pretend that nothing much is wrong with race in our society, and that minorities just need to change the way THEY behave and think and everything will be fine. What an insult to the people who suffer from living in an environment where the racism is so ingrained that many individuals choose to blame the victims and refuse to acknowledge the role they play in perpetuating this mentality. I don't know what race you are but you have clearly adopted the position of the majority in placing the blame squarely on those that have been oppressed and demeaned for centuries. The hardest thing for people with this approach to do is try and think for a moment what it must be like to automatically be viewed as inferior and flawed by people who consider themselves to be righteous and good, but who are unwilling or unable to truly empathize with them. Change requires an effort from both sides, but it takes more than token gestures from the majority like affirmative action to even the playing field.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  27. Lee

    A wonderful and insightful piece, but I'm curious. Your son said, “Because if you are black they hate you more.”

    Who is "they?"

    You might have missed an opportunity to also counsel your son on his own prejudices.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  28. mnjack

    I,too, enjoyed your article and it brought tears to my eyes and unfortunately remembering that blacks are not the only ones that are treated so poorly.
    What sticks out and you mentioned are women.
    Another group that is disliked even more than blacks is the Gay community.
    Mongs, Mexicans, yellow, red and yes white are all a big part of predudice and disrespect from other communities.
    It is time we all come together and again yes, judge people for who they are inside, not for the religion they choose or the color of their skin.
    To me, it the person is nice to me, it is very easy to be nice back or visa versa, no matter who they are or what their background is unless they are just deliberityly mean.
    I do not have any tolerance of mean.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  29. Alex Roberto

    Mr. Jakes,

    I can appreciate and agree with your words. I would also like to add however, that it can go both ways. I am a latino male who grew up in a predominently hispanic and black city. Unlike others around me though, my skin color is very light and I was made to feel inferior because of that. i did not look "normal" to them, since I looked like a typical white caucasian. I grew up, wishing I had darker skin in order to fit in with those around me and embarrased of my color. I no longer think that way, but as a child, so see what's around you and see that you are different and it can be painful. Especially when others, who normally would be the minority and are endlessly going on about racisim and prejudice, are the ones doing the very same thing to those are do not look like them. So, the same lesson that you give, as you said, should be taught and driven into every child, to have selfworth and not compare themselves to any other race or color.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  30. Ayemobola

    Thanks Bishop for sharing.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  31. William Dwyer

    Thanks for the wonderful, sad, and yet uplifting story. You hit the nail on the head. When a family promotes self respect, compassion, and good self esteem all the cards will fall into place. Children will grow knowing that how they treat themselves, and how they treat others, will be what defines them as human beings. Yes they may very well have to deal with racial inequality, yes they may have to overcome odds that may be greater for them than others, but given the right tools from within the home, the family, the parents, they will shine throught it all and do the same for their children when that time comes. We are all products of our families first, and than secondly products of our environment. It's all about the children!!!! It's all about the children, and I repeat this because this simple mantra is so often forgotten.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  32. R Cruz

    I truly believe in the power of a child being able to communicate his/her feelings and thoughts surrounding their culture. My son is biracial (hispanic/caucasian) and he also stuggles with the same issues of "where he fits in" and how society views him. I believe he needs to stay in tune with both cultures and embrace them. Thanks for such a touching story,,,,

    July 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  33. K.S. Bowie Maryland

    Bishop Jakes,
    Thank you for sharing such an important story. As a parent raising two boys (ages 1 & 4), one with much lighter skin then the other, my husband and I talk about some of the comments that we hear from those in our inner circle (family & friends) regarding our boys skin color and how it may affect them later on in life. We've heard the terms "light bright", "high yellow", and "pretty boy" about our youngest son whose skin is very light. We've planned to talk with our children and educate them on the differences in people's skin color as they got older, but I see that may be more sooner then later....

    July 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  34. R Moore

    Sorry, but I am not buying these words. Blacks do not want to be judged by the "content of my character and not the color of my skin". No, they want set asides, affirmative action, Medicaid, quotas, welfare, etc. Did you see Spike Lee have a fit because there were no blacks in a WWII movie? They want a Black History Month, a Black Miss America, and a national holiday for a brother who was an adulterer, a liar who plagiarized his doctoral thesis, and a Communist to boot. Sorry, but I can't hear your words because of your actions. Are there special titles for other white, brown, or Asian Americans? The answer is "No" reverend.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  35. Rod Willis

    what a great story.I just returned from montana and experienced repeated racism from native americans.I'm a white male who worked in the nursing field.I must admit that although this is 2008 racism is alive and well.racist ideals is alive and well in all facets of our society.individuals should not be hated because of the color or lack thereof,of their skin.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  36. mary Davis

    Pastor Jakes,
    I enjoy that, when my son start to school many years ago he came and told his dad and i he wanted to be a fireman but not a black one i said you will be a black one he just cry so hard and said no mom i said yes son that was 38 years ago

    July 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  37. Navin R. Johnson

    Mr. Jakes' story reminds me of the scene in "The Jerk" where Mabel King tells Steve Martin that he's not their natural born son. Steve Martin bursts out in tears and moans, "You mean I'm gonna stay this color?"

    July 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  38. xddy4u

    I was born and reared in a small town in southeast Georgia. I wouldn't change or trade one day of my childhood. I've seen a KKK cross burning, I was called the N word once, but the white man apologized the next day. From then on he treated me special. That was in the 50's. The Civil War era is my fascination. My great, great uncle joined Sherman's army when he was marching through Georgia. He was a "mule skinner". The whites heard of this. After coming back, he was lynched on his wedding day. I'm White, African, Blackfoot and Cherokee.
    I've been advantaged because of my blackness, not disadvantaged. My drawbacks and failures were of my own doings, not bcause I was black. I've befriended the most prejudiced of whites.
    I learned from an early age by my father on how to carry yourself.
    I watched him, he always carried himself in a respectable way. He would always tell me, "Take the Lord with you every where you go." And I've always tried to do that. Smile and greet everyone with "How you're doing?" And the world will smile and greet you back.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  39. Jerry - Atlanta, GA

    Bishop Jakes, I am so glad that you shared your experience and your thoughts. As a person of color and as a person who identifies gay, I relate wholly with the experience of your sons. I have to believe that I am created the way God created me to be. There are so many similarities between the struggles of people of color and LGBT people. I hope that we all teach our young people to embrace themselves and remind ourselves of this daily. We should work to embrace all of our identities and try and live a true honest life. Perhaps more importantly, we should daily strive to feel and understand the struggles and realities of others, especially those not like ourselves.

    Your words moved me today.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  40. Monya C Dowdell

    Thank you Bishop for that heartfelt story. I look forward to seeing you in October at Johannesburg Megafest.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  41. David

    As a white male raised in the South, I can easily see how your children could come to have such fears. The racism I've encountered in my life sickens me, and I hope for the day when it no longer exists. Thank you for this powerful story, and for being such a wonderful father - not only to your own children, but to all of us.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  42. Alicia

    I am white and went to elementary school in an affluent, mostly-white suburb. Many of my friends were minorities: Taiwanese, Indonesian, African-American, Indian. I still vividly recall a day when a white student came up to me and snidely asked, "Why don't you hang out with any WHITE kids?" It's a shame that these prejudices are ingrained at such a young age. Thank you for sharing your story. We all have to work together to eradicate these stereotypes.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  43. M. Thomas Howard

    You may have a point JC, but just because someone who is white (like myself) lives in an area where there are more "minorities" than whites doesn't mean you quite understand exactly what it's like to be a member of a different group. I was born in the Bronx and adopted, and needless to say a little white kid in the Bronx in the 1980's means living in an area where at best 10% of the people I knew shared my skin color.

    I had my own unique experience, as did Bishop Jakes and his children. He is not saying that minorities in a "majority world" should be given preferential treatment. His point is, racism and prejudice do exist. Maybe they aren't outwardly manifested as much as in the past but they do still exist. He is asking for people to understand that everyone may have a different experience, that they are all born being who they are, and that people need to learn to accept that.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  44. Carol

    Finally- someone has the bravery to speak out on this issue. My nephew is half African- American and his mother was very vocal about her hopes that 'he is lightskinned'. I viewed this not as ignorance, but a manifestation of her pain that she experienced in her lifetime as a dark skinned woman. Yes, he was born light, and at 9, his skin is turning into a gorgeous dark color.
    We must all strive to tell our children how beautiful they are. I am half Hispanic and half Caucasian, and throughout my life I have been questioned about my ethnicity. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. At times being accepted by Caucasians was a challenge because I have just enough color to make them ask a suspicious, 'What are you?' and ‘What is your last name’? Hispanic people see me as a 'white girl' and chastise me for not being fluent in 'my language'. Prejudice reaches across many ethnicities and ages. All I know is that I am proud of both of my heritages and I tell my nephew how lucky he is to represent not one, not two ethnicities, but three ethnicities that have has a rich history which shaped a nation that is free and for the most part, accepting.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  45. Shannon

    This touched my heart. I am from a small town where there are a lot of racist people. I love all walks of life and pray that someday we see each other as equals and not by a race definition. One person can make a difference to others. I try to influence the people in my town to love all. We all bleed the same color.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  46. Bob

    As a 70 year old white mail, I was astonished to read this. I feel so badly about the 7 year old. I would like him to know that there are so many white people who do not hate black people, and certainly don't worry one way or the other if a black is light skinned or dark. The same as we don't hate or judge Italians, or Eskimos, or American Indians or whomever, just because of what they might look like. It is his character that matters. I hope he can grow up and come to know this through his experiences with all races.

    Sometimes I think as a white person we just don't realize what some other people have to endure. We know it is unfair and unjustified to be predjudiced against our own race and think it's got to be the same for all races. Thanks for the wake up call, and please don't judge all white people for a few ignoramuses.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  47. Eugene


    Not all parts of this country, or even California are so blessed to be as racially and culturaly diverse as Los Angeles or San Francisco. Many of the outlying suburbs such are still segregated. Though, thankfully, much of the reasons driving this new era of segregation seems to be more due to economic inequalities rather than pure racial hatred.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  48. Ann

    Amen! Well said!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  49. m marino

    Bishop Jakes--thank you for such an uplifting story.It just proves that out of sorrow can come such wonderful moments for parental love and teachable opportunities.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  50. MarcusK


    Perhaps you should broaden your spectrum of reading materials. You would be naive to think that such literature/thoughts do not exist in the Hispanic community.

    Here is an example: imagine being Hispanic and a legal immigrant and having any number of people judge you or otherwise look down their nose at you, or whisper behind your back at the thought that your are an illegal immigrant.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
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