thoughts on racism et al

Dear friends

The first time I became aware of a potentially racist action towards me – at least that’s the way I perceived it and still recall it – it was my first day at full time school. I was nearly 5 years and with a summer birthday it meant I started in the summer term – the older children would have started at the beginning of the school year,  the previous September.   I went to the toilets; someone else let off gas (to put it politely) and I heard all the other children blame it on me. I sat in that cubicle and cried.

At secondary school I faced it again – the older children (boys & girls) called me Kissi – Alex Haley’s Roots was on TV and I wore my hair in plaits.  This time I faced up to them –

My name is not Kissi

They stopped the name calling and, even as they hung around the school gates smoking, they greeted me by name, Vanessa.

The events of the last several weeks – Sousse, Charleston et al – have led me to think, maybe there are more people who are racist out there than we think?  Why do they feel that way?  Maybe I work with someone who would not ever speak with a black person given a choice?  Maybe, seeing me, in my role as a woman, a black woman, really winds them up? Should I trust anyone?

I personally feel that ignorance lies behind any type of discrimination – I’m sure many people feel the same.  When I dwell on questions like those above,  I don’t feel right.  1. I’m not going to live my life in fear – that doesn’t mean I’m going out looking for trouble.  And 2. I want to love my fellow beings  – we are all part of the human race and that’s enough for me.

I really don’t know how people feel the way they do. I’ve heard and read things like: “the only good white man is a dead one.” And I’ve no doubt there are equally hurtful phrases about negroes.

“Show me your tail” is what my mother heard when she came here in the 1960’s – and that was from work colleagues genuinely asking her and her friends. How ridiculous!  How awful!  How stupid and ignorant!!

Where’s the love?  It’s largely gone.  It’s the 21st century,  we have incredible communication technology. So is there really an excuse for ignorance?  

There is no doubt in my mind that these are the last days spoken of long ago by prophets of old, even Jesus (see Matthew 24 verse 12):

the love of many shall wax cold

And so we do live in a time where guns and ammunition exist, where they can be obtained, and where innocent people can be killed while worshipping or while lying on a beach,  simply because of the colour of their skin.

I do have a hope – it will come to an end one day. Not through military strikes, but through a Man who will return to Earth.  Meanwhile,  I will continue to treat every as my fellow brothers and sisters and not be bothered if they can’t see past my beautiful brown skin and black curly hair 😉

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the ‘fro is back

Dear friends
I forgot to mention that during my break I removed the braids and so, to the delight of some work colleagues, my afro is back 🙂 And it’s bigger!!
Comments in the past week have been as follows:
I love it when your hair is like that – it’s more you!  🙂
Have you had your hair cut?  😦
Make sure you leave it, don’t cut it so you can do an afro like Will I Am! 😉

And the classic (oops, stylish, as she would describe it!) comment from my eldest daughter who just had her hair done in braids:
You don’t really suit long hair!  🙄

It was great to reduce my helmet by 4 cm to fit on my reduced hair for site visits today 🙂

a brief encounter

Dear friends, I confess, I’m probably becoming a grumpy older woman,  especially exasperated (though I’m not rude) by middle aged white men who have little in common with me, except that we work for the same company.  This week I found myself in the elevator with such a one and the brief conversation went something like this (I’ll call him Bob): Me: (hurrying in as elevator doors are about to close and pulling off woolly bobble hat) Oh, hi Bob, you alright? Bob: (looking in elevator mirror, turning as I enter, holding Costa Coffee drink) Oh Hi! I must say I do like your dreadlocks. Me: They’re braids!  Thanks though. Bob: Of course, not dreadlocks, but didn’t you get it done over Christmas? Me: Yes, before New Year. Bob: That first Monday back in the office,  I saw this person and thought who’s that? And then realised… Me: (interrupting before Bob breaks the third commandment) Yep! It’s me, afro gone!! Elevator reaches our floor and we exit, heading for separate doors into the same office… Me: Well, have a good day! Bob: (with back to me, catching the door from someone heading out) Yes, and you! So, my thoughts?  It’s been several weeks now since the braids replaced my afro, my twa! So, please,  get over it, while it’s lovely to receive compliments,  you see me everyday; you may not talk to me everyday but I very much doubt that if I were white we would be discussing my 6 week old hairstyle,  would we? Someone, help me understand!  And then, I think any intelligent person knows the difference between dreadlocks and braids; and if you don’t,  don’t use the word!  Simply say, ‘hair’ – it’s obvious I will know what you are talking about. This is a bit of a rant, I know, but I think we can all do with a bit less ignorance and more genuineness and respect all round. 

back to work

Dear friends, tired! Office was the same as before Christmas but my hair wasn’t 🙂 lots of compliments! Always nice to receive and give complements!

The worse thing, for me, about returning to work is the recognition of things I wanted to do and didn’t – like taking flowers to an elderly lady we know in a nursing home, baking & taking bread to my father, pruning our garden.  I’ve heard a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Hoping I’m not that bad but I want to improve and reach out more.  I did read an encouraging article in the Ensign (latter day saint magazine – see lds.org) about a teacher who was given a potato rather than an apple from a pupil and this reminds her (and now me) that you don’t always have to do grand acts of service, small gestures of love are as important.  I have time to write and drop a few cards 🙂

anger v passion

Dear friends, this evening I caught the end of a talk on the radio about ‘anger’. About how Malcolm X was the angry black man, while Martin Luther King was seen as peaceful. And on to now where we see angry Muslims, angry women, and oh, angry black women. And how if you really want your message to be heard it’s best not to show anger as that suggests you are ruled by emotions.

I want to be heard and, yes, at times emotions run high, amongst my family, amongst my work colleagues, amongst friends.  The message I want to share #sharegoodness is that there is a way to be happy, a way for everyone, for your every person who has lived & will live.  And that this message does not mean we change, but rather that we can happily, peacefully and passionately embrace all truth and goodness.  And that we continue in our regular work lives, striving to be honest & the best we can.  I love this message and I hope that through these writings you can feel my passion and come to love the Messenger too. 🙂

hair

Dear friends,  hairdresser today!  Let me explain,  the last time I went to a hairdresser was about 2 years ago,  cost lots and since then I’ve been doing my own ‘styling.’  I’m an architect,  not a hair dresser so this has been a challenge.  Recently I have sported an afro,  a teeny weeny afro (known as a ‘twa’).  But, that’s what my hair was like 25 years ago (visualise Grace Jones with spectacles!),  I feel I need to look more… feminine, more…. homely!!   So, today I went back into single braids.   My dear daughters assured me that a bun style will look best for work;  I must get hair bands and clips for the office, I’ll need to wear it down to fit under my site helmet.  My husband likes it  🙂 and said I look younger,  always a complement as a mother of four lively children.   And some great hairdresser conversation where I encouraged the assistant to look up #sharethegift on YouTube.  And I encourage you to do the same,  if you’ve not done so already.