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)
  1. Jerry

    I was raised in a small rural town in mid Michigan. My school had no black students. Until I went into the Army, I had never spoke to a black person, other than a greeting at a store or something similar. I was raised in a Christian home and house rules were that being prejudice was a sin and in no way was tolerated. Like many other kids, others influenced my thoughts. While I was in the Army, I had wonderful relationships with my black friends and I learnded that the childhood influences were just ignorant people. I have never heard a Rev. Jakes sermon, but I will certainly be looking. What an extremely wise and intelligent man. I hope to be a fraction of the father that he has been to his sons. Thank God for men like him.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  2. BJ

    Kudos Bishop Jakes. No offense to the last Hispanic brother. But one exception does not constitute the norm. Los Angeles is a typical in terms of its cultural composition. Indeed in most cities in America, whites are still considered the majority, and every other groups are therefore minorities. No one argues that Hispanics are not an increasingly improtant and growing part of the multi-colored society that is America.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  3. Brandi in Atlanta, Ga

    Thanks Bishop. I too, have been thorugh a similar situation with my son. His skin was light, or as he liked to call himself and people of his complexion, beige. I have avery dark complexion, which I am very proud of. He's an avid sports player and is always in the sun, but was always worried about getting darker. He has told me on several occassions that the reason he does not like to be in the sun too long is because he does not want to get darker. That hurt. But what can you say when you live in a society where light is right?

    July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  4. Scott

    TD Jakes, get a grip....guys and especially ladies, just another super rich preacher....

    July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  5. Allya

    This reply is to JC. While I agree that such statistics are probably the case for LA, it is not so in WV where his article took place. In WV, the majority of the population is still predominantly white.

    We may be a diverse country but not every state/city/town is equally diverse.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  6. Vaughn

    Hey JC, about California that could be because that's a new statistic and also I'd like to point out that California is not the world. the focus is not entirely on one group. I believe that CNN is trying to tell a story. The story of the African-American experience is unique and I applaud CNN for highlighting it. This is not to say that the Hispanic, Middle-Eastern or Asian story is not worthy of a documentary or needs to be addressed. It absolutely does and should be. But as pointed out in "Black In America" Black people are struggling disproportionately in contrast to other ethnicities.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  7. Kim

    Dear Bishop Jakes,

    Thank you for sharing the story of your sons. I have twin boys who will be seven this year and they, too, are different complexions. One is lighter than both me and my husband and the other is darker than both of us...recessive jeans I guess; my husband's father is very fair and my father is a much darker complexion. It amazed me that at the ages of 5 and 6 that my sons were cognizant of this difference between them. They both refer to their differences, but not as one complexion being better than the other. But I often wonder if this was an awareness they came to on their own or if someone said something to them. I pray that this difference will never carry a negative connotation. However, if we ever have to address this issue as a family, I pray that God will grant my husband and I the wisdom to discuss this with them in the same way you and your wife approached your sons. Thank you again for sharing this experience with us.

    Peace, love and many blessings,

    July 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  8. Denvill - atlanta

    Reverend, you forgot to mention that most of the discrimination against dark skinned blacks is and has always been from their lighter skinned kin folk...its a shame this aspect of the conversation is avoided like the plaque in the so called race conversations in black America.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  9. Akin. Akinyemi

    I applaud the Rev for his contribution and his advise,but this can be viewed in several dimensions. Apart from what the family has to do it is also the responsibility of community leaders, including church leaders, to reach out to parents and chidren alike. This is important too since the reality of American family is that women head most households.
    Adults also need need help with self esteem, people who lack this can not teach it to their children and wards. However, African Americans must begin to walk with their heads held high. The reality of life is that there is no superior race, I have met worse ppeople from the so called majority race,if there is anyting like "the majority race anywhere'. If we want to know the majority race, check the chinese population.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  10. Emma Morrow

    I would be willing to bet that it was you and your wife, and those that had surrounded your family, that put such feelings of self-hatred and inadequancy in your son.

    I would bet that your son actually listened to your self-pitying sermons, your messages of hatred and fear toward whites.

    I would also bet that you won't ever accept responsibility and blame for poisoning your child's soul with racism.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  11. TX in NV

    I am a 26 year old woman who was born in small country town in Texas. My father is Caucasian while my mother is Hispanic. My sister is as fair as day in her complexion while I've always had dark olive skin, but I didn't always appreciate or see the beauty God gave me. As a child, I wasn't invited to birthday parties or allowed to go to the community pool because I was too dark. I wasn't Hispanic enough for the Hispanic kids (who laughed when I tried to speak Spanish) or Caucasian enough for the Caucasian kids (I felt this even among both sides of my family). My inability to find and create a cohesive racial identity bothered me all the way through college. I was even lectured for checking multiple boxes on tests that asked about my ethnicity, so I finally started checking OTHER. It wasn't until I moved abroad and traveled that I saw the beauty in THE WORLD, in the ability to be everything at the same time and embrace ALL parts of myself. These experiences, coupled with my own diligence in reading up on other people's experiences (Danzy Senna's Caucasia comes to mind), have given me the strength, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion I have today.

    As I am still young, I can only hope that children such as yours, Mr. Jake, grow up to not hold a grudge on the ways of the world but instead see the beauty in their own existence and that which does live all around us. Thank you for such an insightful article.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  12. RP - Northern Virginia

    Bishop Jakes – What a fantastic piece of writing! Thank you for sharing your experiences and insight into what is surely still a struggle, but I think we are seeing the begining of the realization of Dr. Kings Dream. My son (7 years old and white) is in a school where there is no real majority nor minority. Of his two best friends, one is black and the other is Indian. His elemntary school is a wonderful mix of black, white, hispanic, indian, asian and middle eastern children. The school system continuously celebrates this diversity and the children are well aware of each others unique cultures. Be sure that the pain that you and your sons shared that night on the floor of your living room is being driven from our society by the innocence of our children. As Dr. King said "I have a dream......where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers."

    They are, Dr. King. You planted the seed and I see it grow every day in Northern Virginia.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  13. Brian

    It's a rare gift to be able to explain a complex issue with such clarity, but you certainly have achieved that Mr. Jakes. Thank you!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  14. Gary

    I wish I could understand people who judge a person based on the color of their skin. Understanding the problem is the key to solving the problem.

    I'm white, born and raised near a black community (College Station) near Little Rock, AR. I've always had as many black friends as I have white and was taught from an early age that you befriend or shun a person based on his/her heart and character, not their race, religion, wealth, or any other factor.

    I've done my best to pass that attitude on to my children as they were growing up. I pray that I've been successful.

    I do have a problem with the sagging pants, and sideways hats though. The hip-hop and rap (ughhh.....don't like them), but it's not a race problem, it's a culture issue, and (hopefully) just a fad.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  15. D Petersen

    Amen from Minnesota, the land of the blue – eyed blonds. But here it has also changed. Our cities and state are becoming increasingly more diverse. Sometimes it challenges us to understand and embrace our brothers and sisters, but ultimately, we are all better for it.
    Thank you for your very personal and moving testimony

    July 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Stephanie H

    This article not only brought tears to my eyes but also opened them. I am a caucasian, married to an african american man and we have a 6 year old son. Even though I would describe us as lower middle class, our son attends a private Montessori school. He has been there for three years. There is a blend of different cultures within the school but it is still a predominately white environment. While my husband and I are always conscience of the fact that there are differences between our family and others within the school, mostly due to income level, I have never considered that my son may be facing prejudice within his classroom or in his environment. It is heart-wrenching to think that he may have feelings like those described in your article. We have always encouraged him to understand that he is a special person because God made him so. This article only enforces that this is the right thing to do. Thank you.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  17. Ron James

    Being an African American father in America is not an simple task. Not that being a father in this day and time is easy for anyone. But after traveling to other countries of the world, some places we are treated better some worst.

    I have had similar conversations with my children. I believe most African Americans have. Yet this is the best place I have been to. If there is a better place to live, with better quality of living I would like to see it.

    Things are much better that they were 30, 40, or even 10 years ago. let's all enjoy the acheviements

    July 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  18. Hawkeye

    It is time for the black community to come alive and wake up to the responsibilities of this society. You are what you become, a good citizen, a bad citizen. The very reason that there are more black people in prison is that they are breaking more laws. The facts are that the law and school and opportunities have been slanted in your favor as you slept and let them pass by, its time to wake up and accept your responsibilities. Amen

    July 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  19. David, Detroit, Michigan

    What an awesome testimony. Being a white man helping to raise two bi-racial girls, one with black skin one with white, no one knows better about sitting with two children and explaining this one. As far as the comment from Los Angeles, I can understand your point and not taking away from the struggles of other ethnicities, I must laugh at your joke about Pastor Jakes commments being "dated". Don't think so, try going to rural Ga, or North Carolina and tell me how dated it is where the KKK is still active, cross burning still exists, where people still sneer and stare and comment. I am sorry, but perhaps you best become up to speed and understand its as current as todays news. I appreciate your comments pastor and it was equally moving to build my little girls self esteem up after a few years of racially motivated comments directed in thier way. What is so wild is they did not even recognize the difference in each others skin let alone anyone elses until someone stated it was. Racism is a taught behavior and one that is a curse to any person teaching it. God has a plethra of colors girls and he has a color for each of us. Where it proud, where it loud, don't let anyone tell you different is what I told them.

    Thanks again!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:37 pm |
  20. Willie L. Austin

    I thank God for farthers and men of GOD like you. We are all loved
    by God Whatever race and need his help to make it in this world.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:37 pm |
  21. Mike

    I empathize but it's still misguided. His comments are presumptuous and lack perspective.

    As a society we need to get over "You don't know what it's like to be this" type comments.

    His son said, “Because if you are black they hate you more.”

    More often than not black children are taught this by their parent and family rather than by the American Culture.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  22. Brendan Mahoney

    Bishop Jakes: Thank you so much for such a loving and insightful view of what it is to be a minory of any kind, the subtle but profound effects that negative messages have, and therefore why insitlling of self-respect is essential. Regardless of one's view on sexual orientation, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children experience exactly the same feelings of negative self worth as those imparted to other children because of race, gender, body weight, or anything else not perceived as within the norm. In some respects, though, it is worse. While covert and even overt racism clearly still exist, as a society we have reached a concesus that overt racism is unacceptable. That is not true with homophobia. LGBT youth grow up in a society where their very right to be who they are is debated publicly. No wonder suicide rates among LGBT youth are the highest. Reasonable people may disagree about LGBT issues, but there is no room for disagreement about the need for loving and tender conversation with LGBT about inherent self worth.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  23. Toyin, Atlanta.

    It is human to think darkers things are evil and ugly. This is not a white and black issue, I grew up in Nigeria and we make fun of those who are really dark skinned but that is where it ends. We don't discriminate on skin tone, we use it to crack jokes. How can you hate someone simply because they are 'black'? satan works in mysterious ways. Get rid of the demon in you, or maybe go to church for delieverance if you tend to hate your fellow human beigns simply on looks.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  24. Zola

    Amen, pastor, amen!
    Just to add something, as one person said, we don't come in this world with racism it somehting that is taught.
    But how interesting it is that with all our differences, we are all the same. If you need a donated organ and you start debating if you will accept it based on the race of the donor, you have a huge problem. I hope and pray that you will accept the gift of life that God is giving you at that time.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  25. Sue

    Thank you for sharing that story.

    I often sit and think of how we will deal with such issues with our biracial daughter as she gets older (she is only 1 now). Though things are better than they were, we as a country still have a long way to go.

    I have already had people say "your daughter can pass". I have asked them "pass as what exactly??" It usually leaves people uncomfortable when I ask that question, but some have actually said "well... white". And I want to know – why does she "have to pass"?

    She has both black and white ancestry along with some native american, and I pray that as she grows she does not have to deal with such nonsense, but I know in my heart that she will. I pray some day we all get past this issue of race and just look at the person as a fellow human being.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  26. joe b

    It isn't just an African American experience, it is every nationality. My parents, German and Italian immigrants always taught my sisters and I to be proud of who we were. This was in a very affluent jewish community where we were excepted by most, but shuned by a few.
    Perhaps 25 years ago things were differant. I cannot imagine a black person not being proud of their heritage today.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  27. Mark

    Bishop Jakes, I can tell you first-hand of the effects of low self-esteem due to racism on a child. I grew up in a predominently white community. I don't remember too many other blacks in my elementary school and none in my classes. I can say with all honesty that the saddest day of my life was the day I realized I was black,..and different. It was the realization that day that people really hated me for the color of my skin. The worse part was the realization that there was nothing I could do about it. That day all the taunts started to make sense. I never knew why previously,..but I knew after that day.

    From that day forward it was a long process of rebuilding self-esteem on my own. Not an easy task when so many are telling you that you are basically undesirable. It affected my grades,...my outlook,..my childhood. The hurt and the scars are real and have lasted till this day. Eventually we all find the strength, but we bear the scars forever.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  28. Pam, Long Beach, CA

    We are a family of diversity...I'm white and 1/2 Jewish, my husband is Hispanic and Black and my children are mixed everything! A very California family. Living in Los Angeles, we really never dealt with racism and if we did, I never noticed! However, when my daughter (who's brown and beautiful), moved to San Diego, all of a sudden, she faced racism! She was shocked to find herself treated as if she were an illegal alien. Because they are so close to the border and because San Diego is, let's face it, backwards, racism against Hispanics is very, very prevalent. It hurt me so much to see my gorgeous daughter treated like a 2nd class citizen. Needless to say, she's moving back to L.A.!!!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  29. Allen

    Good thing the conversation never became "if you're black and gaythen even you'll hate me, right, Daddy?" Because while heterosexual Christian borthers are accepted by Pastor Fakes, the young gay children are made to be monsters. Unless they can sing, then you put them in the choir.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  30. Roberto Gutierrez

    An inspiring article, may God Bless you always Bishop Jakes.


    July 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  31. Brian

    I appreciate this story and sent it off to my wife. We are progressive, that is what we call ourselves, some people call it interracial. We have been having discussions on this nature for a while now as we embark on the journey of parenthood(hopefully God willing).

    Thank you

    July 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  32. dorcas

    Why is it that when a black person relates a personal experience inevitably someone posts that we should not focus on the black experience but all experiences. The black experience is unique in America. We were not allowed to immigrate by choice we were brought here by force. It's not an affront against other ethnicities when we discuss the differences, you shouldn't take it that way.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  33. Julie- Dallas

    Rev Jakes,
    I have had the pleasure of meeting you in person several times, and each time I hear you speak my respect for you grows. As a white woman, and a new mother I can only hope to do my part in creating a world for my son where he knows to judge others by what they do and not by how they look. Making progress one baby step at a time! Thank you for continuing to bring us together!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  34. Tim

    Great story Bishop. Sad though. For a 7 year old to feel this way is tragic. I wish I knew how to fix it. The golden rule does not work, the 10 Commandments apparently have been forgotten. The love of God and Jesus doesn't seem to appeal to many of our fellow country men and women and thats too bad as well because I am 100% sure that the Holy Trinity does not see skin tone, just soul tone. Maybe one day all this will be behind us but it makes me sad to say that it probably wont happen soon. It could if we just practiced love instead of hate.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  35. g davis

    To Jc, from California, If I guess correctly you are hispanic. I am African, Jamaican, American. African because that is where my ancestors came from Jamaican cause I was born there, and American, because I am a citizen, and I am also Hispanic. My mother was born In Costa Rica. Its weird but the hispanic community never embrace their African Ancestry instead alot of them who are lightskin embrace white culture but yet you see alot of dark skin hispanic who never like discussing their race or color, which alot of them are of African Ancestry.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  36. Frank Chase Jr,

    I found the discourse to be refreshing and encouraging. No race should have to put through guantlet of thoughts to not wanting to get blacker. I'm nearly 50 years old and my daughter came home and told my wife and I that she wanted to be white. With that being said, I 'm glad Barak Obama is running for president. His campaign, even if he does not win, will expose the hidden racism in the country like never before. I'm already noticing it in all the network new casts through their language and what they choose to focus on. Of course FOX news is more upfront and blatent. The other network anchors are more subtle in exposing their racism. Many times, I find myself talking to the TV saying, they really don't know that their statements and questions reveal their hidden racism. Racism is a militaristic spirit from hell that seeks dominiation over others who have less wordly power. That's why many whites will not give Obama no chance simply because he's an African American. If he were white, their would be no discussion or news to report. It would be just two white men running for office.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  37. David from LA

    Wow! I've never read a more powerful or thoughtful essay on the issue of race today. As a white male, I've not had this sort of experience of racism, but I'd always suspected that even when the overt racism of parts of our society are absent, that a subtle creep of other sorts of racism can be found.

    I love my Scottish and Irish heritage. My family celebrates in subtle ways, but we definitely celebrate it. It is sad that too many in our culture will have no problem with my cultural delight, but then look down upon non-Europeans doing the same sort of thing.

    I'm keeping this piece in my library. Thank you, Bishop.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  38. kate

    Thank you very much for writing that. In 1990, I was a grad student at Syracuse University. I did a research paper on the "race" and sex of actors in commercials during Saturday morning television. Most were white males, with one or two white females thrown in. Very few actors of other races appeared in these ads. While I haven't reprised my study, my casual observation assures me that I would not come up with the same results if I repeated the study today. We're getting there. We may be going slowly, but at least we're going forward and with forward motion, we can build momentum.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  39. BH

    JC, apparently doesn't get it. Its not focusing on one race. I have a daughter, she and I are African American. I understand completely what the Reverend is saying. Why is tit hat people that don't understand always have to preach to others on how they should focus and feel. Who/what gives you the right, the authority, the arrogance.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  40. Marguerite

    Thank you for the well written and touching story. My darling nephew is bi-racial – my sister being of Italian descent & my brother-in-law born in Guinea, Africa. The thought that anyone would treat him badly because of his skin coloring makes me angry, sad & determined to try to make a difference in the way this country can sometimes treat minorities, especially African Americans. To JC-Los Angeles, I understand that there is a large hispanic population in L.A., but please don't even try to compare how Whites may feel there as compared to Blacks because the authorities are almost exclusively White in L.A. and you know damn well that they'll single out Blacks and to a lesser extreme, Hispanics, to check up on much more often than they ever would Whites. We must first admit that there is racism in this country & not try to call it any other name & then we can start to overcome it. It may be improving, but we're not there yet.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  41. John - Columbus Ohio

    I am a white person, but only by description. I am a human by my logic.

    I hope all Parents start their children of with the truth,,,Everyone on this planet is equal when they are born. The differences begin when these children start making decisions that impact their future. Thank you for an uplifting story and the knowledge to know there are men like you in the U.S.

    God bless you and yes "Amen brother"

    July 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  42. Shana

    Thank you for sharing your story, it was both heartbreaking and uplifting to read. My daughter, when she was 2, asked her pediatrician why she was black. And Dr. Mooney had the most marvelous answer she said, "Because God loves variety. If we were all exactly the same, he would have nothing to do."

    July 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  43. Denim


    July 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  44. Paula E. Powell

    Dear Pastor Jakes:

    You have been an inspiration to me for years through your teaching.

    It really should not be so difficult to be black. But it is. That is why your story is important. Most Anglos do not have any idea of just how difficult it is to be black because they have never lived it and can therefore never understand it. I hope one day we can wake up knowing that everyone realizes our strenghts and embraces us the way they embrace others of their own race. Racism is an invisible tragedy we face daily, yet few know just how daunting and how much effort is can be to have a healthy self esteem under the circumstances.

    I do feel that a better day is coming when there will be no such thing as an inferior race, just people living in harmony reaping God's blessings – each other.

    God Bless You,

    Paula E. Powell

    July 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  45. Tom G

    Wow where to begin. First I think that I should tackle the misconception that Minority/Majority in the context of this discussion has anything to do with the actual number of people in a given group. Instead it has to do with the people in power, the images in the media, the opportunities available in your immediate situation.
    You seem like a reasonable person, think about something like a supermarket in LA, who are the shoppers, who are the clerks, who is the manager?
    Your final comment about embracing a culture of accountability suggests a deficit in the black culture. This was a thought prevalent in the 1950-60's and led to such programs as the "fresh air" program, that all you had to do was show "those" kids what life could be and they would straighten themselves out. Many studies have debunked this idea. The problem is in fact it is just the opposite, an embracement of the "American" culture of "independence" and individual achievement, without the without the social support (not only monetary, but emotional a well) necessary for all but the most determined to get through.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  46. Wonda

    I can remember being called chocolate when I was growing up in a household where there were six girls, 4 of them light skinned and 2 of us "chocolate". Well my older chocolate sister was married and moved away leaving me the only one around. When we took pictures with those black and white polaroids, no one could see my face, only my hair sticking out in the two ponytails I wore often. Everyone would laugh at my pictures. Now that I look back, the two of us who were chocolate were also the prettiest!! 🙂

    July 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  47. David Mashburn

    My wife and I are trying to raise our two boys to not be concerned with the color of another's skin. I want them to understand that we are ALL created in the image and likeness of God.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  48. AB- South Carolina

    Bishop Jakes,
    I thank you for your words. As parents it is our responsibility to instill in our children a sense of self-worth. We are responsible for teaching them that who they are on the inside is much more important than what they look like on the outside. I am currently raising my sister-in-law and have heard her say on more than one occasion that she doesn't want to get blacker. I don't what experiences she had with the color of her skin before she moved with us, but everyday I stress to her and my children that they are beautiful people because of who they are, not because of what they look like.
    At some point, we need to ensure that all children are taught to appreciate the differences in people.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  49. Debby Brooks

    Pastor Jakes,
    I love watching you on TV and love your message of teaching children to respect who they are (and others) at an early age. Pray for me as I try to do the same as a public school teacher.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  50. Riley

    Thanks, Mr. Jakes for the comments. I do believe that we as parents must love our children and show that love as well. When I was growing up I thought that black was a some dreadful color that was put on black people. I thought this because my mother would refer to me as old black heffer. I thought something was wrong with me.I remember applying for a job once and I put on the application that I was white because I thought that I would get the job, which I did not.
    That taught me to look and respect my children, and to bless and not curse them.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
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