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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. MC

    Bishop Jakes, I was impacted by your article in a way that I didn't think I could. I'm a father myself, and my son is younger now than yours at the time of the incident you describe. We certainly share the love for our own children, and the desire to see them at the same time protected from the harsh realities of our world, while trying to equip them with the tools to handle them.

    I'm white, and I've experienced my own brand of prejudice, being Jewish. I've often thought of how I would address these situations with my child and I never thought, the same as you, that I'd need to do so at such an early age. I would love to hear more about how you handled that conversation with your sons.

    This dialogue is so needed, and while uncomfortable, it's so essential. I want my son to be not only accepted for who he is, but also have the open mind to accept others, and not be tainted by society in the way as it stands now. I would like him to look at others and judge them on more than their appearance. It's a subject that is left to parents and I dare say that, along with many many other things, has been overlooked, glossed over, or simply avoided by virtue of being too difficult to address. I can't see how wounds in this country can heal, and how we can prosper alongside one another unless we do, and that is why I'm glad that CNN is running these programs. They should be required viewing for the youth of our country, more of this, and less perhaps of Facebook would do our children all alot of good.

    Thank you for sharing what was clearly a painful memory. I don't have to be black to understand your message myself, as it is one that should resonate with all the readers of this column, no matter their race, and most especially if they have young children.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm |
  2. Mark

    I think JC missed the point. Because you have not read or the article may not have been written about how a minority group feels does not negate the need for the feeling to be articulated.

    I don't think T.D. Jake was doing anything but to suggest positive reinforcement as one plank in the platform of self acceptance – of appreciation of self within the wider community. Unless you are saying that the 7 year-old child's feelings were not legitimate and had no basis in reality. Ignorant racism and prejudice are real even if unspoken.

    A minor point 140 nationalities do not translate into as many racial minorities. While there also exists nationalist chauvinism and bigotry the issue here is hatred of another human on the basis of genetic make up, which even causes one to hate and think little of themself.

    Mr Obama is embracing the opportunity to be leader of the country and there are those who silently wish him failure based on his skin tone – no less dangerous than the overt KKK.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Robby

    Well written opinion piece, though I would like to echo the statements of JC from Los Angeles that this discussion should expand to include all minorities, particularly hispanics. We should also accept current realities that Blacks and Hispanics are not necessarily a minority everywhere in the United States. With that said I applaud you for mentioning personal responsibility I would have to agree with Bill Cosby that it may very well be one of the most important issues holding back the Black community at this point in history.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  4. Terry

    Your words are like a brush is to an artist...the further along that I read the better perception of the 'whole' picture that you were painting..it opened my eyes up to view the world as you and your children view it. It truely is a sad world when children are afraid to grow up and be as God intended them to be. Hopefully, we as adults can learn more from our children.....to just get along with one another.Amen

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  5. Karen

    Reverend;

    Please be assured that things are changing! Still not perfect, but changing!

    We moved here from South American when I was 10. Although our family was caucasian, my dark eyes and dark hair gave me away as a person of Mediterranean origin. I tanned like the dickens too. One summer, I really tanned very dark. I still remember hearing a racial epithet assigned to me and my country of origin because of my dark tan. I also remember how ashamed I felt.

    Flashforward 30 years!!!

    My daughter tans just like her momma! With her curly hair and her momma's tan, you'd never guess she is half dutch and half hispanic...you really would not be able to tell WHAT she is.... But unlike me, she LOVES her exotic looks and tanned skin.

    Moreover, neither of my kids really know race. The other day, my five year old son was struggling to describe a few kids and he said "the brown boy blah blah blah." I was immediately alarmed until I noticed the boy in question had a brown shirt.

    Things are not perfect, no sir. But they are improving. Our children's attitudes about race have evolved and will continue to do,

    Personally, here is my hope. I hope we continue our fight against poverty, which affects people of all hues and backgrounds.

    Regards,
    An Admirer

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  6. TAYG

    Well said...as always, you rock!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  7. Jennifer

    Being from a small town in West Virginia, I know how you can be treated. A few years ago, a black person wouldn't think of stepping foot into our area because of the hatred people can have. We have a few blacks in our neighborhood now, but I still hear the "n" word and other choice of words still being said. I believe this is because these people have never had contact with anyone outside of their race and this is how others have been raised. I applaud you for speaking about this experience and I hope that West Virginia wasn't always a bad experience for you and your family! God Bless!!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  8. Mike - WI

    As a white man I can never fully understand the complex race issues faced by minorities. Reading this is just one more eye opener. I too shed a tear and immediately could relate as a father and a provider. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences Bishop Jakes, I was unexpectedly infused with hard earned wisdom.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  9. Bro Lee

    J.C

    For you to say something is out-dated takes alot of nerve and ignorance. Hispanics never had to deal with having there language
    taken away from them nor told that to read was a crime. African Americans had to fight through that nonsence for four hundread years.
    And for you to look down your snobbish nose is very interesting. Are you sure your not passing for White?

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  10. DM

    I guess I don't understand how in the same story you can have a fear of losing identity and worry about blending mixed with overt racisim noticed by a seven year old. What is so wrong with a lack of outward physical identity in this world? Should we all be so concerned with culture and heritage recognition by others that we miss the individual? It seems that we're at a point, finally and at long last, where we can truly begin to be based on the "content of our character and not the color of our skin" yet we cling to outward identity.

    This is a different world. People of many different backgrounds and nationalities run Fortune 500 companies and occupy positions of authority in government. Why should a child aspire to be just like someone else because they are successful – and black? Why can't they just aspire to be like someone whose character they admire regardless of race?

    I don't disagree with Bishop Jakes in that any racism is too much and that there is a difference in cultural heritage and pride. What I do disagree with is that in today's world it has to be tied to anything other than what you bring to the table as a person.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  11. fred

    This section is disgraceful. Black America. Where is the White America, or Hispanic or Asian American? It's time black people stopped thinking they are something special and get with the program. Black people think the world is against them and everyone is holding them down. They are not. The only thing holding blacks down is themselves. You have the NAACP, BET, Black History month. Its this special entitlement you think you deserve that makes people hate black people so much. If you just stopped trying to be something special, African-American BS comes to mind, and just be Americans then more people would like you.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  12. Dani Wilson, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Pastor Jakes, thank you for sharing your story. JC, I appreciate your point of view. I have lived in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Dallas, and for a short stint of my childhood in Memphis, Tennessee.

    I can tell you, JC, that California is not an accurate representation of the makeup of American society. And if you have not read one article or piece of literature where a non-Hispanic has documented how it feels to be a minority in a majority world, then you should stop in to your local library and check out books and periodicals that are focused on certain sub-cultures of our society and the experiences of minorities. There is a wealth of information on this topic. I think people choose to not see this.

    I believe Pastor Jakes is merely pointing out the need for families and those involved with children to teach them that differences are a reality and no one race or culture is superior or more desirable than another. And certainly, children should be taught to appreciate their differences. If Pastor Jakes were Hispanic and offered a similar testimony, I'm sure he would stress Hispanic children learning love of self. Don't let the color issue overwhelm you, corrupt you or blind you from seeing his underlying message – [black families] need to encourage love of self and teach our children that their dark skin, thick lips and kinky hair are as beautiful as any physical features of other races.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Fred

    I say it loud and I mean it, "I'm Black-African (American?) and I'm proud of it.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  14. mercy

    Great insight brother; I struggle everyday wondering if I should have kids and if I do should I raise them in Africa where I'm from. My personality was well developed when I came to this country simply because racism does not exist where I'm from. Would my kids develop a sense of self worth and self acceptance if I raise them here? I struggle with this question everyday.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  15. Bill

    Bishop Jakes,

    Very enlightening story. Thank you for the insight.

    It is a shame that children are forced to feel so aware of any difference from the other kids. If you are in the minority, it can be easy to feel this difference. Richard Pryor once remarked that he had been to Africa to see the old country. One of the things he said he noticed was that in Africa, it was the white guys who were walking down the street looking for each other.

    I am caucasion, grew up in a very caucasion western state, and had no preconceived racial notions in regards to African Americans (pro or con).

    When I was 13, I attended Boy Scout Camp and met two African American brothers from "the city." The older brother, about my age, was one of the funniest people in the place, so the other boys enjoyed his company, and wanted to hang out with him. Any event attended with him was bound to be really entertaining.

    His little brother was somehow offended by this. "You only want to hang out with my brother because he's black!" he shouted. Honestly, that had never occurred to me. We tried to reassure him, "No, we want to hang out with him because he's so funny!"

    To this day, I am not sure whether he was just feeling left out by his brother, or whether he felt that his brother should not have all these white kids as friends, or whether his experience was that the white kids might eventually exclude him and his brother...don't know. But I have thought about that for 35 years.

    Our country has a history of racism–not always overt, sometimes just a matter of stacking the deck. From Reconstruction (though the Union won, it allowed the South to revert to slavery in all but name), to to "Equal but Separate," to Jim Crow, to the Dixiecrats, to the GI Bill (one of the best pieces of legislation in US history, but way rules set and other allowed racial laws tended to favor whites) to the Voting Rights Act to Trent Lott's comments at Strom Thurmond's birthday.

    It has been an uphill battle all the way for African Americans. Educational and work opportunities, though unbiased in form, can easily be made biased in practice. What a shame that such feelings should exist at all, never mind start at the age of 7.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  16. joe sockit

    JC from LA has a very valid point. I believe we have reached critcal mass on the diversity issue. If society targets one group making them the scape goat, denying them opportunities in both education and economics, blocking them from government jobs and programs because of their gender and skin color, that is not going to provide the social environment by which an equal society will develop.

    Signed

    A White Male

    July 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  17. YaYa

    To JC, I think you have to remember the context that Pastor Jakes was speaking from, this was over 20 years ago in West Virginia. Had they lived in CA. The conversation probably never would have taken place, there would have been no need.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  18. td-Sacramento

    I was so inspired by the CNN conversations and commentaries regarding this subject. Through those, you feel & see the hurt and obstacles that are being dealt with. We all have an obligation to do our part. As a caucasian mother, it is my responsibility to educate my sons that we look at the "person" and not the color of their skin or differences. I am happy when I see the diverse group my sons call "friends" and all the positive impact that has on their lives. What a sad world not to want to reach out to everyone based on such ridiculous categories. Keep up the good work and know that it makes a difference. AND, one parent at a time, we can continue to make a difference.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  19. t.b.

    I applaud the frakness and picture painted by the story, it was both heart renching and eye opening. I am also thrilled that a dialog of being black in America is finally being openly discussed. It is through this discussion that the rest of the nation will be enlighted to the struggles we go through.

    However, as Solidad and Senator Obama are both of mixed back grounds, just like most Americans, when are we going to be just Americans? Why do we have to distinguish? You don't hear about Latin-Britons or Korean-Italians. This country is a melting pot and it would be nice to get to the solidary we had as Americans after September 11th but without the high price and tragedy.

    I suppose talking about it is part of the process. It is my hope that it will bring our country that much closer to being country of Americans.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  20. Tracey

    Amen Bishop,

    Being raised by my Grandmother I had a similar incident. I have a dark complexion similar to Bishop Jakes and grew up in the South. However, my Grandmother spoke of my color with a great since of pride and adoration-she has a light complexion. She often called me "Blackie", but not in the negative sense of the word-but with heartfelt emotion. So-I said to myself at that time, if my Grandmother-who meant and means the world to me has this since of pride about my complexion then whom else should matter.

    This stuck with me and gave me the confidence to go out into the world not being afraid to fail. Currently I am the President and CEO of a major health care facility, all because of my Grandmothers love and perspective.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  21. Sean

    Wow! I am of a darker hue, well educated (Ph.D.) and somewhat have a way with words. Your column said in a two-minute read what I have been trying to express all of my life!

    Thank you Bishop!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  22. Greg, PA

    Wow, an amazing story. I often tell myself and others that I am not prejudiced or racist. I grew up the son of a sailor that brought fellow sailors to our home that were black, I grew up in neighborhoods were often black people were my best friends. For two of the last four year my regional boss was a black man and I absolutely loved and admired him. However for the last 30 years though I lived in a predomently white population in rural Pennsylvania, with very little exposure to people of color. It's hurtful to me to think that black people think that I would think less of them because of their color but with a country full of idiots who don't think like me I guess I can understand it.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  23. Chris from Cedar Rapids IA

    Thank you for sharing and when you can, give them a hug for me too despite it being over twenty years overdue. Nobody should feel that their very skin is a limitation. Ever.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  24. Linda Gibson

    Bishop Jakes - Your story just stung me, and as a white person,
    I believe the only thing I can do to help repair the harm to so many innocent people is to vote Obama in '08! What a wonderful thing it will be if he is elected as our next President! God bless you - please know that not all people share those hateful racist thoughts. We can heal these wounds if enough people want it!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  25. Corey Ford

    My daughter is 5 and I had to similarly explain to her that her naturally curly hair was equally as beautiful as the young girls in her class whose hair did not resemble hers. Her little brother reminds her of how beautiful she is on a daily basis. It is vitally incumbent upon us parents to instill, inject and perpetuate diversity within the lives of our physically colorful, colorless minded innocent children who only know LOVE.

    Thank you for sharing Bishop T.D. Jakes!

    Knowledge is King and being abundantly aware of your challenges is half the battle.

    Although the mainstream images do not reflect the same beautiful images that represent my daughter and other colorful children, I take OWNERSHIP of the definition of beauty that my children will value and appreciate in their upbringing into their adult lives.

    GOD makes no mistakes and there is zero exception to that rule!

    Be Blessed.

    All the Best, All the Time!
    Proud Father,
    Corey

    July 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  26. Tom Gwinn

    Why do people of color have to be African-American?
    I am a white American. Why can you not be a black American?
    America needs Americans to profess love and strength in things that are American. I have met T.D. Jakes and have followed his teaching for years. If you are not American then you are not American. I love living where Americans live. I do not want to live where Non-Americans live.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  27. Dan

    Bishop Jakes, thanks for sharing. Your children and your congregation are lucky to have a man like you.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  28. Aderryn

    JC in Los Angeles, a majority is not dictated by simple numbers. What Mr. Jakes refers to is being an "other" to those who hold the power, make the rules, and dictate the norms. I am a white female living in the Northeast, but I can tell you that today, in 2008, the world I live in is still very much one dominated by a white male majority. It doesn't matter that women outnumber men at the University where I work....the fact of the matter is, it's men with the power, and white men to boot.

    Mr. Jakes is not talking about separation between races or ethnicities or sexes...he is encouraging each group to respect and take pride in the things that are good and rich and meaningful within their circle, and recognize those things in other groups as well. This is not the negative spin that you are putting on it. NO culture should feel forced to ignore or denounce the things that make them special in order to try to blend in with the majority. Our differences, and the respect we show to those differences are what gives us such richness as a nation.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  29. Keisha

    I come from a biracial family and am "white"skinned my five brothers are all medium complexion and I refused to teach my children anything about white/black/asian,etc. because to us it was never something we think about because we have every shade in our family tree and to them it was normal and not a white/black issue. On her first week of Kindergarten some of the little "white" girls teased her about her "black" friends and she didn't have a clue what they meant but that it made her friends cry so she cried and came home still crying.I had to sit her down and explain to her that regardless of what color others perceive you to be our hearts only come in two shades one is dark and empty,the other is light and loving and no matter what color our skin is only we know what color our hearts truly are andwhen we show the world who we are then they see if we have a dark heart or a light heart. She returned to school and told the kids that were picking on her what i said as best as a kindergartener can. That was 15 years ago and her boyfriend of 3 years is biracial as well,he is half black and half Korean,he hated the color of his skin because he is perceived as black and after I told him what I told my daughter on her first week of school and he said after all of the years of being teased he finally felt good about himself . His mom said she had tried different ways of making him feel better when he would come home upset but nothing ever worked until that day and every time she hears a child is going through that she tells them this story. I wish the world was color blind but it's not and may never be in my lifetime,I live in South Louisiana and we are racially diverse but there is alot of racial problems still here that are as prevalant in other states but i'm doing my part and that's all anyone can do. The next time you are talking to your friends about someone,don't start the description of the person you are talking about by saying "that black guy/girl" if you do you are feeding into this hateful world.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  30. Nats

    You guys kill me. That was not preaching. Preaching is inspired by the Word of God. None of what he said came from the Bible. It kills me how many of you will drink the kool-aid. This man and Obama have the great talent of eloquently stating nothing. The Bible teaches that your self-view should be based on your relationship with God and what he has planned for your life; your purpose; not fitting into mainstream. Racism has nothing to do with your self-esteem unless there is a lack of Godly wisdom in knowing your place in the kingdom. I see why he is so wealthy...

    July 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  31. A. - New York, NY

    I am not considered "a woman of color" but I am no stranger to experiencing prejudice. You see, I've been overweight my entire life. It's still hard to look in the mirror. I hate shopping. Nothing ever fits right and when I go into a "skinny store" just to look around, the stares feel like daggers going slowly into my skin making me feel out of place.

    To all those who have never known how to love yourself, it's never too late to learn to do so.

    Mr. Jakes, thank you very much for sharing such an important life lesson.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  32. Carl y Seye

    This is a POWERFUL article!

    As a single mother of two mixed young boys, from Senegalese and Caucasian decent, I find this article invaluable in what I am sure some day will need to be addressed between us.

    Thank you for sharing your story in such a candid way so we may all benefit from your knowledge and experience!

    Yes We Can!!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  33. Ingrid LLorens

    My son did not know what it was to be a minority and discriminated until he went to college in Indiana. In this "Christian" university he was constantly taunted and harrassed by the wife of his coach for being a "foreigner" and hispanic. So maybe California has lots of nationalities but as a whole USA lags in acceptance of other cultures and people.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  34. K in TX

    Thank you for sharing such a sentimental and personal experience with the rest of the world. When we have open dialogues, people on the outside looking in are able to understand our feelings on what it's like being us! I really enjoyed this statement: "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." This was really profound and will prove to be beneficial for young, aspiring intellects.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  35. Larry K, Toronto Canada

    Thanks for sharing some of your experience as a father, and some insights as a pastor. I grew up in Ghana, Africa; lived in London, England over a decade, and now reside in Canada with my family. In nearly two decades of travels, I too have experienced prejudices of different kinds and so have my four children. It is important to appreciate, though, that all peoples are created by God, and in His image. The same Creator gave us colors and did not elevate any one color above others. Racial prejudices are creations of some people and it is all of us who must work to eradicate them. It must begin with each of us appreciating others as much as we appreciate ourselves. It is in this regard that labels such as "black", "white", "brown" are not helpful. Can we all see God, His love, and beauty in others. That will be an unbreakable platform for harmony in diversity. And I say "Amen" to this, and to your thoughts, Rev T.D Jakes. Thanks.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  36. Mike

    This story is very touching and very real.

    Thanks for sharing in such a positive light.

    I believe we all can learn from this.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  37. Kim

    My hard-working mother moved my sisters and I out of the city into a predominantly white neighborhood in 1969...we were the only black family in that particular developement and I was one of 4 or 5 in my elementary school. So I grew up in an enviorment very similar to the one Rev Jakes describes for his children. It was to say at the very least difficult at times but it made me the unique person that I am today. I can remember arriving at elementary school some days and the white kids...people I thought were my friends...had decided they were not going to play with me today. No real explanation was ever given for this...maybe they just woke up that morning and realized I was 'different' and didn't want me as part of thier group. I never mentioned these incidents which came and went to my mother because I felt it was something that maybe I had done wrong....as a child would. By the time I was in high school...I found myself feeling as though I wasn't really part of either world....I "talked too white" for the black kids and I wore my hair in braids and traditional styles which made it impossible for to really 'conform' for the white kids.

    I also crossed racial lines with dating and friendships which caused more controversy. I also participated in extacurricular activities like cheerleading (1 of only 2 on the squad) ) and volleyball which at the time were considered non-traditional and more of a 'white' thing?

    I look back on all of this while the discussion of 'Black in America' surrounds me and I feel very proud....I was always pround to be Black....I never wanted to be any other race....I simply wanted people to accept me for who I was. My Mother and my family had a very strong 'black heritage'. We were also very proud of our Native American heritage also. So as an adult, I realize that the sadness I sometimes felt was truly because I actually felt bad for the people who wasted so much energy disliking me for who they thought I should be and didn't take the time to get to know me for who I was.....someone who was a combination of different educational and social enviornments, who was bathed in all cultures of music, art and history while being surrounded by a loving American family.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  38. Carolyn

    This was an eye-opening situation I have not thought of for a long time. I am white I live in the north and we a very small black population so there are still a lot of things I probably do not understand but from my prespective this is how I feel: I feel like you can go anywhere in the country and God have mercy on any one that attacks you but I cannot, how dare me go beyond my borders ex. in the inner cities or the south I am not safe. I have worked with my husband driving truck cross country and we have found ourselves in many dangerous situations. Then we also have the complete rejection of the south, one time while we were in a small restaurant in Texas we noticed in the background music there was drum beats and southern music of a walking cadence. As we looked around the room the place was full of war paraphenalia of the south. A little girl was told as she was acting out like a little girl might and it was very insignificant , "You act like a good little southern lady", oh my, what is this? I cannot believe I would ever tell one of my children to act like a good little northern child. MY MY !!!! I had a very best friend with a mixed marriage and counseled one of her daughters to be proud of your heritage I sometimes wish I had such a rich heritage. She was ashamed of her black father but after this talk her eyes were open to how blessed she was, her father went to her high school on Martin Luther Day and shared, Kelly was the hero of her school I know somethings not all but there is another side to this coin. Fear of what you might think or do or say to me is always there and this is sad. I love TDJakes for all you have given to us the Christian world but then I see you be very strange: like crying because Obama (difinitely liberal man not for life very strange beliefs anti-American at the least) was the leader in the democratic politics, and the crowds you entertain is predominately black, remember what Billy Graham did tore down the barriers we need you to tear down the barriers you have put up... I would love to go to one of your retreats but I do not know if you are color blind or not. Carolyn

    July 23, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  39. Chris - Texas

    I have to agree with JC. As long as people keep making distinctions (media outlets included), we will continue to see racism in this country. Until we can all just be people, we will never see an end to this.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  40. Debbie

    When my son was in first grade we had a parent-teacher conference and the teacher was disturbed because my son had refused to hold the hand of a black student. When asked why, he said "he didn't want it to rub off on him." We were floored that he had done this. We put the pieces together and realized he had recently seen a Hallmark movie and it was about racial discrimination and featured school-age kids. I wasn't in the room with him when he watched it, I don't think he watched the entire show, and we didn't discuss it. What he took away from that was the very literal negative part. He was too young to understand the moral of the story and needed guidance to understand the point the show was trying to make. Kids are so easily influened–he felt very bad when he understood how hurtful his behaviour was to his classmate. He's grown into a nice young man, and we've had lots of "teaching" moments since then about many topics. So grab them while they are little and don't take anything for granted–kids need their parents guidance!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  41. Raeann Driggers

    Thank you for sharing your story.It will help me, as a white parent to educate my childred about the struggles that children of color will face!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  42. lola

    JC-
    The Bishop mentions "Majority world" for a reason. The Majority of Business and Government leaders, media leaders are white. This is prevalent whether you live in Iowa or LA. They also come from a "Caucasian is the norm- everything else is not" perspective. The same can be said about Male dominated society or world.

    Yes there are exceptions like Obama or Oprah or Condoleeza Rice or Hillary, but the society as a whole tells us through news, entertainment, commercials etc... That White and Male = "the Norm".

    I am not being reverse racist or neo Nazi feminist for saying these things. It is really how it is. It is hard to notice when you are part of this "norm".

    I am a white female and have had many opportunities, but it is the subtle slights, backhanded comments, media bombardment that I have to deal with. Yes I can ignore it, and feel empowered in myself, but something eats away at you. This feeling can grow ifit is fed by hardship, or any bad turn of events.

    Recognizing the problem is the best way to start resolving it.

    It is not necessarily a blame thing- more of a "let's recognize the issue and stand against it from now on" sort of thing.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  43. Michelle

    As a mother of eight we adopted 5. Two African American we are white parents, I'm allways interested in thoughts about race. A funny thing we adopted our two children because no one would. We love them so much our daughter has sickle cell. We lived in ca for a long time and have moved to NC we have recieved perjudice from both the blacks and whites. We chose to teach our children that all of us are different in Gods world taht is the beautiful thing. When our daughter came home from school she is 8 because black children were commenting on her white father. My husband sat her down and said stick out your tongue what color is it? Then he said what color is my tongue? She commented he said see we are the same color. See when our daughter needs blood we never ask the color so I beleive just as Jesus had many in his blood line so do we.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  44. Janet, SoCal

    The story about your son breaks my heart. I heartily disagree with "JC-Los Angeles." In the late 90's through 2002 I lived in a neighborhood for 4 years where I was the only caucasian to be seen for miles. I was treated with respect by people who are seldom treated with respect by caucasians. It was a sweet addition to my life experiences.

    My mother is fairly racist but doesn't really see it. Every time someone brings up the pain of feeling devalued she launches on a diatribe about her own pain in life, willfully turning away from the point. It saddens me. I sincerely hope it is a generational blind spot and stops with my (forty-something) generation. Or perhaps the buck stops with the generation of my mixed-race daughter. Either way, we need harmony in America if we are to thrive in the future.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  45. Rheem

    JC

    I do not believe Pastor Jake was attempting to ignore the plight of any nationality as much as he was attempting to share with the world an intimate moment in his life so that others may learn from his mistake. The moral of Pastor Jake's story is bigger than color and cuts to the heart of the problem that as a society we are missing the mark. So often we allow society and the media to dictate who we are, what is attractive, and what is acceptable. As parents we allow music videos to teach our boys how to be men and our girls how to be women. We (parents) are so caught up working numerous hours a week to buy our children their newest whim instead of providing them with what is truly important; self respect.

    Unfortunately JC, many people will read Pastor Jake’s testimony and dismiss it as another rant from an African American clergyman. But I ask you and everyone else to reach beyond color and reflect on your relationship with your children. Ask yourself truthfully, am I doing all I can to prepare my child/children for a life that judges’ people based on the color of their skin, income, and physical attributes. Have you taught your children that all money is not good money and that you do not have to be promiscuous to be liked? Have you taught your child that all things are possible with hard work and perseverance? Finally, are you a role modal for your child our do you leave that inconvenient task for others? These questions and many others are the types of questions we as parents should be asking ourselves. Pastor Jake story is hart wrenching, however, it is heartbreaking how parents today are failing at parenting.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  46. G. A.

    Thank you very much for this enlightening piece. I feel your pain because I am now going through this with my 5 year old son, I cry for him and hurt for him. This does not only apply to black children in the USA , I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and the situation is just as bad. I will be forwarding this article to his school principal and teachers, maybe come September 2008 beginning of the new school year they may understand him and the challenges he face a little better.

    You have given me renewed strength. Thanks! May God Bless Us All!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  47. woodie

    An interesting story. Now I'd want to know why the child thinks being black is a bad thing. I wonder where he got such an idea? From his parents? From his teachers? From his friends? I wonder what effect the conspiracy theorists like Rev Wright and Al Sharpton have on young black children? Are we building fear into kids at age 7 or younger? Why does your child think having dark skin is some kind of impediment to a fruitful and productive life? How did this idea get planted? I believe the root of this issue is the prejudice he was taught and not any real-world problem he might have experienced. Issues of race can be managed in the real-world and he should be taught to believe that.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  48. norman

    Thanks for that message. I cried while reading, as my three year old daughter told me just last night that “see did not want to be brown". This broke my heart as I too believed she was too young to know the pain of being a minority in a majority world. When I tried to tell her that GOD picked that color for her she began to cry even more. She finally fell asleep and I stayed awake half the night crying and wondering what to do. How do you tell a three year old about the pride history of the women and men that look like she does?

    Your kind words are helping me and my family deal with this situation. Thanks for sharing and GOD bless.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  49. Carol in Los Angeles

    Thank you, Bishop Jakes, for your wisdom and insight. As a white woman who grew up in South Los Angeles and chose to stay and raise her family here, I have a similar problem, the opposite side of the coin.

    I have two white boys. They have always been in the minority, in the neighborhood, at school, and at church. Most of their friends are Black, and our house overflows with Black young adults from the neighborhood with whom we have a wonderful, loving, trusting friendship.

    The hardest lesson I am trying to teach my boys now, as teenagers, is how to safely live in a predominately Black neighborhood where they are sometimes seen as targets. As they walk and drive down the streets of South LA, there are many Black young men who will not treat them with respect. And that is really unfortunate!

    I believe that dialogues such as this thread must be on-going, to build friendship and trust between the races. But as I tell my son that it is not safe for him to drive alone through certain neighborhoods near our home, and teach him to drive with the awareness that the driver next to him may act out of rage at any moment, I am very sorrowful that our society has not come farther in the 50-some years since the Civil Rights movement. Can't we all just get along?

    July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  50. JT

    I love to listen to Bishop Jakes preach. And one of the things he stresses in his sermons is that men have to start being men, loving their wives, and taking care of their children.

    Perhaps if we could see men of color assume responsibility for the kids they bring into the world, the prejudicial opinions people have of them would change.

    We know for a fact that the majority of the prison population is black; we know for a fact that the majority of people on welfare are black; we know for a fact that the majority of children born out of wedlock are black....I can continue, but you get the drift.

    Bishop Jakes speaks to us about the sadness of watching his kids, even at a young age know what it feels like to suffer discrimination.
    But, people of color are the only ones who can change the way they act and take responsibility for their own actions.

    I don't know anyone who hates a person because they are one color or another...but I know plenty who resent ANY race thinking they are owed a living because their grandpappy was a slave, or thinking they are proving something by bringing a bunch of children in the world for everyone else to support.

    Sweet story, and I hate that children have to feel the pain; but it's time for every person to assume responsibility for themselves and quit whining about it.

    Sadly, you and I know it won't change, that we will continue to see the people who aren't really minorities anymore blaming everyone else for their troubles.

    Touching us with sad stories about their children, the very ones they are bringing up to perpetuate the myth that they are "owed something." The very ones they are raising to hate the white guy. At some point, someone needs to stop the merry-go-round and get off......Bishop Jakes can talk the talk, can't he?

    July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
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