Dear White People,
I borrow this term from Justin Simien, the brilliant creator of the great Netflix show, and on this day, I’d like to say that I LOVE YOU, Dear White People, from the bottom of my heart.
To understand how much I love you, I have to take you back to the 60s, when I was a little girl with dangling pigtails, wearing patent leather shoes, and holding the hand of a tall, ebony skinned Black woman with a large afro, who was born in a shack on red dirt in Georgia. My mommy taught me to love kind and open hearted White people.
My Mom, who was a Ph.D. student at a top university in the North, was being ushered into this new world by fellow graduate students of every hue and by liberal Professors who wanted change. I had been ripped from my Big Mama, who was in the South and the warmest security blanket a little girl could have, and I was petrified.
But soon my fears would be eased. My carpool would become a VW bus decorated with flowers, which carried my White, Sweden, Indian, Hispanic, African, and Black friends as the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine played. They taught me that there are wonderful people of every race and that most could see past the color of my skin and feel the heart-beat of a little girl with long legs and dangling pig tails, longing for her Big Mama’s embrace.
To understand my love for White people, I’d have to take you along on a play date with my best friend, Chris, a paled skinned, blue eyed, blond White girl, who, instantly, became my BFF. I loved her curly blond hair. Her blue eyes. Her awkwardness (She walked funny). And I loved her family – a Brady bunch type with a Saint Bernard who jumped through the front door’s side glass pane and chased after the mailman. I felt the warmth of my Big Mama’s embrace at their place on blistering cold winter days.
And then there was the bi-racial couple, my Mom’s good friends. The wife was White or Jewish, extremely tall, stylish, hip, and cool. Her curly red hair looked like an afro to me. She was a professor at the University. Her husband was one of the darkest skinned Black men I’d ever met, but, yet, they seemed to fit together like a hand and glove. He, too, was a professor. They’d visit with my mother often.
During this time in history, many Americans desperately wanted to rid America of the stains of slavery and racism. I remember my Mom talking about racism a lot with her White friends, who really cared.
Then fast forward to Los Angeles in the nineties. I, now a mother of three sons, am searching for a similar diverse experience for my three sons. I want them to be around White people who can see past the color of their skin. Who will embrace them as little boys, who are athletic, smart, and just happen to be Black.
I end up at a picturesque school on the westside. As I drive up, the principal, a tall and stylish White man, strides out to the curb. We exchange a firm shake as I introduce myself and tell him that my son is the smartest, and I’m looking for the best diverse experience a mother can find. We were welcomed by families, who were elated that my sons were there. Who immediately begin to schedule play dates. Who could see past the color of their skin. My middle son becomes the first African American President of the school body. My youngest becomes the second.
During this time, I’m teaching in Watts and so I know that not all Black folks have this Kumbaya experience that the Kellys are having on the West-side. But I can’t help but feel hopeful that America has white people who are living Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream. For them, I have nothing but love and hugs.
Now, I have spent a life-time looking for Dear White People, with gigantic hearts, who:
1) Understand that my skin color does not define who I am. That my life experiences, education, religion, and more shapes me instead.
2) Are able to be in my presence without mentioning the fact that I’m a woman with brown skin and nappy hair. Enough, already.
3) Value my opinion and ideas without thinking that they’re less than the best because my skin color is brown, my hair is nappy, I sometimes wear braids, my lips are large, my nose wide, etc.
4) Don’t believe that Black men are inherently violent, have super-human strength, and are to be feared.
5) Don’t believe that ALL Black women snap their head back and forth, point their fingers, curse, scream, and are loud-mouths similar to the poor images portrayed on Basketball wives, Housewives of Atlanta, or any of those similar type shows.
6) Acknowledge slavery and its devastating psychological and physical impact on Blacks.
7) Acknowledge that there are bad Whites and good Whites like there are bad Blacks and good Blacks.
8) Accept that some Whites are racist and don’t like the color black, don’t like people with nappy hair, and don’t like many of the physical characteristics of Black people.
9) Accept that some Blacks don’t like White people.
10) Believe that there is institutionalize racism and that Blacks, Whites, and others have to constantly look for ways to combat it.
Bonus: Are able to, at least, acknowledge that there is such a thing as White Supremacy and White Privilege.
These are my own personal means of measuring the content of a White person’s character to determine if I can love them. I have loved some with fewer than my ideal 10. No one’s perfect. I applaud all who attempt to understand a Black woman like me. I love you from the bottom of my heart.