When I was 10 in 1969, without permission, I went and had my hot combed hair washed and cut into a round, nappy afro. When I arrived home in the afternoon, allegedly coming from a friend’s house around the corner, my mother slapped her hand over her mouth and cried.
She was horrified. I left as a little girl with a braid and a ribbon, smooth hair pressed down and held tight with a rubber band, and I returned home “a nigger.”
At least that is how my mother saw me. “Why would you want to look like a nigger? Walton, look at this!” She called my stepfather to her side.
“She looks like a baboon’s behind. Used to be pretty now as ugly as ever.”
I expected to be in trouble. I didn’t expect to be deplored. My mother was of mixed race: white, native American, and black. She had a look that could pass for white and she wanted her brown children born of her black and native American husband to at least pass for nice black people by speaking in very proper English and slicking back our offensive hair.
When people talk to me about White Supremacy and White Privilege, I think about all the inner work I needed to do my entire life to stop believing in either and instead come to believe in myself. That little girl didn’t know, but I know: being white is not supreme and it is only a privilege when I accept it as such.
Lest my black brothers and sisters exclaim: “Try being poor or living in the hood or being in the wrong place at the wrong time and see how much you think you can control.” I hear you. I feel you. I sometimes find myself needing to gather up all my courage, strength and trust in my inherent equality and power, but that is what I do.
I don’t put myself purposefully in situations that are dangerous or likely to be. I follow my instincts and move to the other side of the street if someone is looking at me in a certain way. I recognize their approach to me is how they feel about themselves and life from their insides and I move on and focus on what I know.
What I know: I am a mighty moving power of Love in the world. I am unique and precious and I am black, native American, and white. And people see me as black. I now have locks in my hair that I have been growing for 15 years. They touch so far down my back that I can almost sit on them. People see them and have a view of me.
I know this and I shine anyway.
I deplore the killings, the incarceration, and the disrespect of black people, especially our young men, by others. I am equally saddened by the disrespect some of us have for ourselves. Mutual respect (for ourselves and for others) takes awareness on the part of whites to create a beloved community by their outward and inner postures, and for people of color, it takes knowing, from the inside out, that we are simply beautiful.
As I move out from the stage of my own healing, which has taken decades, there is so much for me to do. For now, I choose to do work with organizations that are serving young people of color so that I can make a contribution to building a beloved community. I am also a lesbian, so I work in the LGBTQ community to be a visible person of color who is also a mother and a spiritual teacher, sharing all my interesctionality.
My intention is to remain focused on all the good work that people are doing to heal our separations and to make my own significant contribution to our unity as human beings.
If you are white and think you are a racist, I love you. If you are white and think you are not a racist, I love you. If you are white and don’t believe in racism, I love you. If you are white and have never considered your views on race, I love you. If you are a racist and you are proud of it, I love you. If you are a racist and have acted on it, I love you. If you are a racist and want to hurt me, or someone I love, I love you. This is the only way forward.
I will put my attention on love within until it consumes me. I do this imperfectly every day but I do it. Everyday. Love is the bigger tent and it serves us all. And by the way, I love my skin. I wouldn’t trade it for yours any day.