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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. Sandra

    Bishop Jakes
    Very great observation ,my family also experienced racisim and it was very painful because it was from so called white christians.The tongue talkers that love jesus but they ahte your black face. My children went to a christan school an di would not recommend thi sto anyone they treated my children worse than non believers. Glad we are talking about this but lets be honest nothing will change white people control the banks the schools most businesses and the white house so the only change is when we die and go to heaven and most white people when they find out blacks are in heaven they will ask to leave. Black America what is this all about its garbage cnntake some that money that your are wasting on a bucnh of useless words feed a homeless black child pay for a college education

    July 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  2. A.P. Texas

    This story, like many others in today's America is outdated. If people are looking at you differently,or treating you differently it is because you are carrying yourself improperly. Most of what is called Black culture goes against what it conventional and inclusive. So, Black people if you start acting like you want to be a part of America you will be welcomed in. Start by pulling your pants up and becoming literate,

    July 23, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Buddy Lee

    While black America sits home tonight to watch CNN, I will watch TRu TV or something. Until Blacks learn not only to respect themselves and especially other blacks, quit whining about what white America is doing to you! Maybe you should whine about what you are doing to yourselves. Quit waiting for someone to pick you up and JUST GET UP! No matter the effort, until Black America gets off of the whining crutch blaming their failures and sorriness on White Males, you will stay down! There are many successful black people in this country. The People who decided to stand on their own two feet and stop waiting for handouts!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  4. Audrey

    AMEN! One day, I hope, our girls won't feel different or inferior because they are female, our people of any color will feel the same and we won't have to listen to people saying that a Presidential candidate is "not Muslim...he's a Christian"...maybe that too won't be as important as what Dr. King wanted us to realize...IT IS OUR CHARACTER, not our sex, religion or skin color, that God will judge us by! I'm a person of religion who knows God loves us all!!!

    Again, thanks Bishop Jakes!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:47 pm |
  5. william harris

    Bishop Jakes, you are truly a wise man. America needs more dialog such as this.. Remember everyone, there is only one race, and that is the human race! (go Obama go!)

    July 23, 2008 at 4:47 pm |
  6. Vijay

    It's my birthday today and I got one of the best ever gift today. That is, your experience and message to all of us. It had no color and still very colorful. I plan to teach my kids the same.

    Thankyou.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Cindy

    The tide definitely IS turning. I'm white from a white-bread small town. Married to a Latino for 15 years, best friend since Kindergarten is Asian, dated an African American in college.

    What I do notice is a lot of white self-loathing these days. Many other whites in this area dislike each other *until* they discover one is interracially married (as I am) - then I'm "okay" again. And if they aren't interracially married or involved, they seem to feel "lesser" about it.

    This is a concerning trend which I hope doesn't gain momentum.

    We're ALL equal regardless!!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  8. Ross

    This was nice article. A couple questions I pondered as I read though. A black person has pride in their race's success, for caucasian people with the same thought we are called racist. I understand that moronic skinheads have ruined the word "White Pride", but that fact still remains a white person with the same thought is a racist.
    And Rev. Wright and farakan (sp.?) are not chastised for their blatant racism. I don't understand our society's double standard. It is excused as venting for them.
    Also, I think this series from CNN is nice, educating is always helpful, but what about , "Being Asian in America, or "Being Indian in America", etc. I know those races face struggles as well. Seems we just continue to patronize one race. That in itself is racist.

    Just thoughts.

    But I will end it with an "Amen" per Jakes request. =)

    July 23, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  9. Valarie

    Sue, thank you for sharing. I grew up in Memphis, TN. I never experienced racism until I got to college. I went to predominantly black elementary school, junior high, and high school. In college I had a roommate who did not want to have a black roommate. I also had the experience of being the only African American in my classes. that was a new experience to me. I ALWAYS was proud of my heritage.

    Unfortunately there will always be racism and prejudice to some degree. The solution starts with a simple concept of loving yourself, and extending that love to others. A problem that is rarely addressed is racism within the black community. I've had the experience of seeing bi-racial classmates teased because he or she was "mixed" or had a "white momma." I've also seen darker complexioned blacks show prejudice against lighter skined blacks. That is so unfornutate, because God created us all in his image... beautiful.

    Children imitate their parents. Children should be taught to love and accept each other. Fear and intimidation breed hate and ignorance. It is up to thhis generation to plant seeds of love, and move forward.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  10. Garvin

    Black Americans have endured a history like no other race and continue to endure racism. But they MUST understand that life does not end. They MUST stop dwelling on the past because they only victimize themselves. There's always going to be racism – hopefully it diminishes to a point of being insignificant. Regardless of that we have to continue living happy fullfiling lives. Believe in your selves, your potential and be honest to your self. Not every bad thing that happens to you is because of racism and even if it is because of racism, pick you self up and keep going. Look at your African brothers that come here to the US!!! They are the most educated people in America today. Obama's Dad was one of them.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  11. Femi Jubal (Nigeria)

    I have always been inspired by you Bishop and my joy is fuller that you brought up this subject.I believe that parents have a big role to play in this.

    Children shoul be thought that nobody can make them feel inferior without their conscent.

    I believe in Black people and i believe in equality

    Africa is the future
    Femi Jubal
    Lagos NIgeria

    July 23, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  12. Sophie

    My cousin grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. When she was very young my aunt and uncle went out to dinner and were sitting next to a table of dark skinned African Americans. This was the first time that she had encountered anyone who looked different. She pointed about to exclaim and everyone with her held their breath at what she would say. "They Are Beautiful!!!!"

    I dont think it is human to think dark things are "evil or ugly." This is a story the family still brings up today and I think it is a beautiful insite to innocence.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  13. Eric

    One thing you conveniently omitted is that skin tone is more often an obsession of the black community, not the white. I've known a lot of racist whites in my life and not a one of them made any distinction between lighter skinned blacks and darker skinned ones. That is something that has emerged in the black community itself (with lighter skinned blacks often making fun of and ostracizing darker skinned ones). So if you're looking to blame evil Whitey for this attitude–forget it. The white community could care less.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  14. chris

    Well said Bishop, well said.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  15. CS

    It is apparent by some of the postings here that many of "you" didn't not understand the point of his story.

    We need to accept each other for who we are no matter the race, age, gender or orientation. God loves us all based on whats in our hearts. Not anything else.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  16. Michelle Morfey

    Outstanding commentary... I am moved, deeply touched and motivated to spread the good word of Bishop. Jakes.

    Awesome!!!!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  17. Sr. June Thomas

    Thank you for sharing this painful story. I wish you had also dealt with issues of language. I am white, and I remember a black friend telling me how hard it was to raise black children to know they are good when they are surrounded by the use of words like "black" and "dark" to represent evil. I think that was when I first began to see some of the problems.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  18. RJ

    Donna,

    I have to strongly agree with you.

    I am one of 8 children, my mother is German, English, Welsh, etc. and my father was born and raised in Mexico of Italian and French descent. He is an American citizen. We were all raised in a Christian home, all be it dysfunctional at times, and my father never cried racism, although he could have several times. He was proud of his heritage, but even more proud to be an American.

    My sister who is 41, a caucasian, and a business professional. She attends a community college in the suburbs of Charlotte NC along with many african American females. She is the most generous, loving person that I know, but she also is a leader. When it came time for her study group to pick a leader, none of the african American females volunteered, so my sister took the reigns. Not a moment later and for the last year and a half they have maligned her, treated her harshly, and labeled her as a racist. All of this without any other reason except for her skin color.

    Now tell me, who is racist?? I am not naive, yes there are caucasians who are racist and it is mostly due to ignorance. But the main reason that racism is kept alive is because african Americans refuse to let it die.......

    July 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  19. adam

    Rev. Jakes,

    I have just now heard of you and read your article, and it is touching, I admit. With my own children the ages of 15, 17 ,and 18 respectively, I can only imagine how difficult that had to be. However, with all due respect, I didn't read the article word for word, but rather scanned it.

    In case I overlooked this one item, please call my attention to it. Where was Rev. Jesse Jackson called out in this article for using the "N" word which I understand to be considered offensive when spoken by others of different skin tones? While racism against African Americans is typically thought of being predominantly the "way" of white Americans, it seems to me that the esteemed Rev. Jackson should be called out for perpetuating this negative trend. I am completely in favor of eradicating racism from the face of the earth, however, when folks who proclaim to want to want the same end to this problem as I do, and who participate in a funeral for the "N" word then use it, well then it makes me think that the allegations of racism are being only used as some sort of excuse.

    With all due respect .

    July 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  20. Jack

    I found it interesting that the guy thought his son was upset because of experiences he had outside the home environment and not things the son heard or picked up on in the home from his father. "They" must have made my son afraid to be black, not me. Most unlikely. Also, I examine documents for a living. Mostly written or typed statements and I go through and highlight where I think someone is lying, being deceitful, not telling the whole story, etc. I really doubtful that the story about his son is true, there are just too many markers that indicate it was fabricated. However, I do not know if someone else edited the story so that is why I am not 100% sure.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  21. clemont

    This story reminds me of the time when as a child of about 7 years old in Texas around 1968 I i said something very similar to my mother. I know now that it broke her heart to hear me say it. I told her that I wished I was white. Stunned by the comment she asked me why i felt that way. I told her, "because all the pretty girls are white." Looking back now, I don't know why I said that to her. I can only surmise that growing up in the still segregated America of the 1960s, I had been conditioned to place whiteness on a pedestal and to view blackness as less than whiteness. And this was in an environment where I was surrounded with very positive models of strong middle class black men and women. Nevertheless, the culture of the time did its damage to my self image and my perception of those around me who I loved. I love America, it is the country of my birth. By the way, I can only say now, given the number of beautiful black women I have seen in my life-boy was I a dumb ass kid.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  22. Frank Tilley

    WOW!

    We can all pray that one day soon, Dr. King's dream will truly become a reality for us all. I hope that soon we will have more leaders like you who can provide the vision of what we can be...and truly grow beyond what we were and what we are to make this dream come true. We are truly better than what we live each day in America today. As we all should know, we all are God's children first regardless of skin color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or whatever other districtions we, in our baser moments, choose to focus on.

    Frank ...in Dallas

    July 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  23. George D

    So Jakes: Why do you say the good of America outweighs the bad? Is it because blacks in white countries live more prosperously than when living in black nations? Do the whites benefit from the vast economic contributions of the blacks or do you think they maybe are pulled down a bit by it?

    July 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  24. Jim

    Bro. Jakes,
    Thanks for such a good message. I'm the adoptive father of a mixed- race son and I often wonder how much of his black culture I need or should include in his upbringing. Fortunately, as a Soldier, I am always in a diverse community, so I have the oppurtunity to seek out friends and get help. I still worry though, because like most parents I want the best for him. Your message was helpful and i will share it with him as he gets older.
    Lastly,
    Amen Brother

    July 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  25. Marty

    My 12 year old bi-racial daughter wanted to go to a "Black" salon to get her hair done. She normally would have a friend, a white friend, give her corn rows or a braid what have you. I loooked around and found on the other side of town where I live was a Black salon I was recommended to take her too. we walk in and there are 3 women to the left getting their hair done and to the back were 4-5 ladies waiting for them to get done. Yes they were all black and I am her father and I am white and there was the initial hush where all the talking stopped when the white man walked in, Hahahahaha. There was a pile of magazines and cut outs with different hairstyles on a table and the lady there asked her to take a minute and pick out the hair style she wanted. Now there were probably 20 different books to chose from and when she finally said she was ready she walked up and sat down and the lady asked her "This is what you want" and she said yes. She looked up and turned it so everyone could see her choice and the started to laugh hysterically. Then you hear someone say "get it baby, get it if you want it" with a clap here and there ! It was a copy of redbook with Jennifer Anniston on the cover and that hair what ever she has. And they were all so nice too her and I had never been happier for her in my life! You see she may have been getting a white hairstyle but it was being done at "The black salon", which meant more than anything to her. She made their day and I know they made hers! talking with her, joking and all. They made her day special and now she has 2 other friends, white, that are going in with her in 2 weeks to get their hair done. It is a shame things just can't be that simple in everything.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  26. Sacramento

    TD Jakes... I had a similar issue with my own daughter, when whe was in pre-school. Another student told my daughter she did not want to play with my daughter because she was not "light" enough... What was endearing is my daughter thought "light" was a measurement of her weight and not her color... I explained to her some children have the need to exclude to feel popular, but she should not feel inferior for any reason (in pre-school terms of course).. What was astonishing was finding the other student was also a minority with skin only a shade lighter than my daughters, but close enough to white to make her feel "accepted". This outward color issue does not change whether you are in a neighborhood of caucasions or minorities. I still remind my daughter of the great words of Samuel in I Samuel 16:7 "...For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

    July 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  27. Donna

    I am a white female who grew up in the south. My daughters were raised in the military, a large part of the time overseas. They were exposed to various nationalities and skin colors. My grandchildren are of white, black and hispanic nationalities and are equally loved by all of their family. If more people spent time learning about peoples character and less being concerned about skintone maybe racism would go away. The continuous discussion about rights and racism goes a long way to continue promoting racism.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  28. Lizzie Thomas

    Amen! Teaching self-love is hard because you have to have it in yourself before you can teach it.

    Keep the faith and always believe.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  29. Lili

    I too was moved by this story. I am old enough to recall the integration struggles in Little Rock and beyond. I am white, but darker-skinned, and my hair is very tightly curled - I am sure I have African roots, as do we all. But I lived in Minnesota, where I was considered odd-looking among the Scandinavians, and since the ideal for a woman seemed to be Grace Kelly, I loathed myself in direct proportion to how much a deviated from that. When the "Black is Beautiful" movement began, it changed my whole perception of myself. I could see myself through different eyes, and I realized that I too was beautiful - and I really was. And so are all people. But it was that phrase that helped to heal me, make me proud of my own vigorous, youthful beauty and stop comparing myself to an impossible "ideal". We are all ideal.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  30. Jay

    This is a fascinating story

    July 23, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  31. Linda

    Amen and amen.

    It is not just race as you said it can be our gender our size our age our facal structure etc. Too many look on the ouside, and fail to understand the beauty that lies with in.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  32. Grant from Southern Georgia

    It would truly be a wonderful world if no one noticed the color of our skin, I just wish I knew how to get there. I grew up on a farm in Iowa, near a small town which was exclusively white. I knew a single black family before I went to college, and never experienced any sort of racism. I remember watching the civil rights demonstrations and riots of the 60's and not understanding what was going on. I never actually witnessed the hateful, hurtful, demeaning type of racism until I moved to the south a few years ago. I was ashamed to hear the comments made by a white contractor I asked for an estimate, and I will never approach him again because of them. I was shocked and embarrassed by this behavior, but I was equally shocked by the hatred I sometimes feel because I'm white. I also don't understand why it's OK to have organizations that are exclusively for black people, when it's not OK to have organizations that exclude black people. I would never exclude them, why would they want to exclude me? Can I form a group called the National Acssociation for the Advancement of White People? Can we celebrate Irish American History month? Can we study Swedish American history in public schools? Why not?
    I want to treat every person the same, and I have black friends and neighbors that I love, but racism cuts both ways. Make it go away.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  33. Toni. North Hollywood California

    Awesome blog. JC from LA has really good points too, however it wasn't that long ago that LA was predominantly white. I grew up in the 70's in the valley. I was raised by a white mother with a hispanic absentee father. As a small girl I recall being different from my family and friends. I would sit in the bath for hours trying to clean the brown off my skin. Demanding people of color to just brush off demeaning comments such as "beaner" is allowing the distributors of such comments a pass on their own accountability. I have been told my whole life to "get over it". I don't know if you can ever shake being disliked for something you have no choice on, but I have learned that having pride for things you have no choice on, such as skin color is a false pride. Today I take pride in my accomplishments and try my best to be responsible. I still get jarred when I meet "white pride" folks because they are real and they are out there, but I try to remember that is all they have to cling to, perhaps they have nothing else to be proud of. I also want to say that I have experienced discrimination from the hispanic population that has burgeoned in LA for not speaking Spanish, this is something I may never do because people get so angry I don't speak it, it makes me want to rebel against that too.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  34. Sammy

    Pastor Jakes is awesome. I believe crime & violence is the engine pulling the load of racial tension & animosity these days, not skin color. If young black males were to begin committing crime, violence and baby abandonment at the same rate as their white counterparts, I believe racial problems would go down 80%. I, for one , would sign on to get rid of the other 20% in my circle of influence. If all young men behaved the same, (imperfect as that might be), discrimination would be inappropriate and fairly easy to challenge.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  35. Tony

    The responsibility to show children their self-worth has ALWAYS rested with the parents...whether there is one or two present in the household. The problem is that African-Americans generally approach their own culture with a defensive (and rather petulant) posture...one that causes they to amplify the good and bad parts. The good parts being the emphasis on family, remembrance of one's personal history, and the continuing struggle each and every one of us goes through on a daily basis. However, it seems as if certain segments of our population have adopted the negative aspects of Black culture (admittedly, most of these are beliefs held by other races towards us) and thrown it in the face of the rest of the U.S. populace. One very salient example is the use of a certain epithet in music and movies. I use this example because it is incredibly negative when uttered in the wrong context and endearing (I don't really see how) when used in others. Without regard to how this word may affect Black people and non-Black people alike, Black culture has used this word as a point of solidarity within our culture...and a middle finger to everyone else. Again, this is just one example of a "positive" aspect of our culture with very negative implications. We all might want to rethink how we're teaching our children to be proud of "who they are".

    July 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  36. Erika

    From reading some of the comments, I would assume that a black person never in life will be a victim nor will he/she have the right to complain. Why, because it makes a few non-blacks uncomfortable?

    July 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  37. TW

    To Brad, who wrote:

    “Exacerbated” is the correct word, not “exasperated”.

    Nice editing there ….

    Read your dictionary more carefully. Here are definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary:

    Exacerbated: To increase the severity, violence, or bitterness of

    Exasperated: To increase the gravity or intensity of

    His word choice is more applicable than your self-proclaimed “correct” word choice. The author is talking about “gravity or intensity” not “severity, violence.”

    Next time, before you decide to correct someone, remember Muphry's law: "If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written."

    And yes, “Muphry’s” is intentionally spelled incorrectly.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  38. Eric

    Oh man, I have to take back my compliment to JC.....sorry about that....but you are right. All of America does not live in CA....try living in Texas and the 32 comments i was talking about are shortly after JC's post

    July 23, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  39. Sharky

    Thanks for the reminder that the reason Black might be having a tough time in life is because While people are so mean and hateful, I'd almost forgot. But of course, if we all forgot that, you might not have a column.

    I love this part "Believe it or not , you can become invisible in a nice neighborhood". Wow, there's a shocker. Who knew that if you were a good citizen and didn't run around like a gangster and just blended in with everyone nobody would have a problem? I'm shocked that the white people weren't burning crosses on your yard. I'd say you've got just as many predjudices as those you claim are perpretrating your low sense of self worth.

    And as far as light skin being seen as beautiful, try watching Telemundo sometime, nothing but the lightest skinned hispanics you've ever seen. Are they all racists too?

    July 23, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  40. Anne Odom

    I found your comments insightful and relative to me, a white woman. Of course, I could never know the pain felt by black people nor the very real possibility of physical harm. However, having been an overweight child and an obese adult all my life, I have had much experience with prejudice. My parents tried to instill in me that everyone was vaulable, regardless of looks, race, religiion or creed. I am very thankful for that. I have raised my own two sons the same way and I am proud to say that they are sensitive, color-blind men.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  41. Namaste

    I wish the different peoples of this country would stop singling themselves out so darn much. It only perpetuates the racism. We're all Americans...some darker, some lighter, but American through and through. I don't go around referring to myself as "European-American". It's just silly. Most of black America, and their ancestors, have never even stepped foot in the great continent of Africa.
    The sooner we stop trying to segragate everyone with all these labels, the sooner we will realize the world is out extended family. We can only hope that kind of thinking will happen in outr lifetime.

    As for the pastors words, he's a smart man. Even though I may not be a fellow Christian, I can appreciate his thoughts and thank him for sharing his story. No child should ever have to cry for just being who he/she is. After all, they are our hope for the future.

    Blessed Be.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  42. Phil

    To 'Jim';

    If you read the seventh paragraph of this article, this applies to everyone including Pastor Wright..

    To 'JC Los Angeles";

    The term 'dated' is relative – if you're young and there are no positive role models where you live of color that reinforce self-pride (not prejudice) it creates issues when you get older. That's why Pastor Jakes is writing this article; to address the issue as well as promote parents being active regarding their children when these issues of self worth come up.

    To 'Cryonbrian';

    No ones making excuses; certainly not Bishop Jakes. This is a very constructive article, certainly more constructive than your cryptic comments. Perhaps you cannot relate to the article, but for those like myself, who as born in the 50's, these experiences are very real.

    Thank you Bishop Jakes for sharing...God Bless!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  43. liberty

    I might be white, and a British wasp, but I've always thought that black people are beautiful just as they are; there isn't any need to fit in with any class or culture really. I might be well educated, relatively wealthy, and attractive, but seriously, it's how you are inside – always has been and always will be. In the 60's I went to various Christian youth clubs and listened to 'Soul Music', and marveled at the terrific energy and beauty put forth – Edwin Starr and Marvin Gaye's voices (and Jimi Hendrix) soared out the right messages – they spoke for all of the masses – which is what we all – one big soup, but what a wonderful variety of ingredients are contained therein.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  44. Matthew de Leon

    Hallelujah! Can't we all just LIVE IN PEACE! It's 2008 people!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  45. Michael - Zionsville, Pa

    Bishop Jakes,
    Thank you for your heartfelt insight. The sad truth is that we not only do this to ourselves and our children, but we must teach them to be that way. If you put a group of racially diverse 2 year old together they will play and treat each other no differntly. They may ask – why are your eyes like that? or "why is your skin that color?" but it truly is innocent inquisitiveness. Typically the other will reply " I dunno" and that ends that and they play together.
    I believe it is because although they recognize something looks different about another but they ASSUME they are the same, just look different.
    As a society we tend to focus on how different we all are. Not just how we look different, but what we wear, what we eat, how we talk, sing, dance etc. But we are not different really. Yes, you can name a dozen differences but in reality there are thousands of ways we are identical.
    We all want the same things for ourselves, our families. We laugh and cry the same. we have the same needs.
    When you see programs like this "Black in America" or documentaries on TV in other countries they are about what is different. These things should not be ignored, or hidden and should rightfully be celebrated. We watch because the differences facinate us.
    But until we realize how much we are really the same it will be difficult to treat each other the same.
    It is hard to fear, distrust or villify someone you feel is the same as you. Remember mostly God made us all and God loves us all.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  46. D

    Bishop Jakes' comments are relevant to an array of circumstances. While inspired by a personal experience, the underlying message is that in an increasingly diverse society that continues to adjust, we must teach our children (our future) acceptance and love of self and others. If we all read carefully at the beginning of this piece, Bishop Jakes says that his story is just one of many; just his personal addition to an important dialogue. At no point did he dismiss the plights of other ethnic minorities. He was simply adding to the discussion of the black experience in America. I do not take offense when I read an editorial about Hispanics in America wiritten by a Hispanic-American...it is instead, an opporunity to gain insight from a person who experiences the challenges first hand. How quickly the oppressed criticize those who are also oppressed...you should be ashamed of yourselves. Just as there is monolithic experience for a black person, there is no one life experience for all minority groups. We will only learn when we embrace honest sharing of personal experiences like this. If we didn't need to learn, this article would never have been written and would never have received the predicted flurry of varying emotional responses.

    Bishop Jakes, thank you for sharing. It was very informative...a lesson that we can all use, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or however you define yourself.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  47. elliott

    Well said T.D.!!
    Thanks for the insight!
    Peace,
    -L

    July 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  48. Kareem Rashad From Hampton, Va

    By the way Bishop Jakes was not silent during the Wright situation! It was that situation that started Jakes having a commentary on CNN in the 1st place!

    July 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  49. Rob B

    Bishop Jakes,

    While I don't discount your words at all, i would like to emphasize a key point I think could get lost. It was this right here: " 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! "

    I firmly believe that having two parents aligned in teaching their children the value they have in the eyes of God can trump all the subtle, and overt, inferences this world can manufacture. And I contend that the effort to do that can cross barriers of race, age and nationality.

    God Bless, sir, and you will continue to have my prayers.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  50. shane

    Thank you for the sharing. Yours is the wisdom that comes from experience, instead of the one-dimensional caricature that Obama is selling us (blame it on the absentee fathers).

    July 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
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