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Race… to the Finish!

Since I was a child I questioned things… obviously a challenge for my dear grandmother who didn’t have many answers to the sometimes outrageous questions I brought up! It was further to her getting stumped on the God questions that I ‘rebelled’ and got my first tastes of ‘letting go’ to see how I would land! Fine, of course!

I was a ‘social challenge’ for my family because spontaneously I blended with everyone in a calm and rational way. Aggression disturbed me, actually. It made me quite uncomfortable. I never ‘got’ why one would be attacking.

I used the phrase ‘social challenge’ to describe myself because just about everyone in my family besides maybe my gran and one brother, was fairly aggressive! There just seemed to be anger every place I looked! On reflection it was probably wrongly placed, but regardless, it did manifest quite strongly in my home life. I did a lot of flexing to actualise in my younger years.

My brother used to find things, it seems, to get angry at. It was like if he wanted to be enraged! One subject that he jumped on regularly was racism. It is fairly typical for many people to blame ‘the white man’ for the hardships of the ‘poor black man’ in my country, and I believe many other countries as well, using different variations on the shade of the oppressive Man.

Well even in my youth I’d ask the question, … ‘but what exactly did this ‘white person’ directly do to us?’ since in fact, the closest I had ever come to one of these mythical creatures was seeing them on tv! I couldn’t differentiate between in-between shades very well either. Not to say that I didn’t register a slight difference if I met a non-negro, but it was more about ‘carriage’ than ‘colour’. I hope this makes sense…

As the years went on I made a decision to finally let my brother know that I was NOT subscribing to the story he was telling. My rational brain demanded facts [thank God!] I went on to secondary school and went from being a social problem for someone, to being confirmed a quite acceptable little girl who all kinds of people liked too. [Indeed I was pretty likeable at primary school too, but it helped to see it elsewhere.]

That’s where I first met with diversity! It was great. Some of my best acquaintances were wealthy white [local], visiting Scotsman boy, white, and a few other persons from different places in the world. I had tremendously good friends who were also of African descent like me, but in terms of chilling out and being comfortable, I must admit I felt a greater responsibility with them than with the ‘freer’ people of the world.

My insistence on fact to my mind aided me to achieve very many of my eventual goals in life.

Then, as now, rhetoric reigned. So many people toss about phrases and words that they heard someone else say and do not take their time to analyse for themselves and bring some justification to their choices. That open minded me has met some truly beautiful persons over the years, starting then in my childhood ignorance and insistence. My life would not be the same nor would I be so contented, if I had not enriched it with a range of influences!

I feel quite disappointed when I see people ‘go there’, and go there aggressively also. Everyone is ‘my people’ and I see the best in them ‘on the spot’! I feel very blessed to have this inner sight, you could call it, because my exchanges with people are so much richer, more exciting, very energising!

A Canadian friend once asked me, ‘Do you consider anyone to be a stranger?’ And my spontaneous response was, ‘I don’t see strangers; I see a human being waiting to be acknowledged.’ And it was sincere.

Perhaps we could recognise that we each need to be seen as more than a superficial thing. Perhaps we could acknowledge that the aggression often manifest is due to a craven desire to be simply noticed; to be seen as somebody… Maybe then we could temper our response and reaction to not perpetuate and extend the aggression and help things to deteriorate even further…?

Today I think the issue of race is another quite sad effort to rule by fear and not by sense. We each have an option to step back and ask if we are ruling our mind or is ‘someone else’, less equipped to judge for us. It is one of many such issues we still talk about, too much in my opinion, while Real issues prevail for all of us.

Our humanity is over there at the finishing line waiting for us to get there. I am so SO ready, to Race to THAT finish!

Join me there!

Love you all,

Best, Sherrilene

dreamstars

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August 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

15 Comments »

  1. Thank you Dear Sherrilene, for this bit of personal, “inside” history of one woman. It helps a lot to know the thinking of others around race. Being a white woman, I often wish to know more, but don’t always know how to approach the subject. What is it like to be of color? What do you (non-white of any race) see when you see me as a white woman–or do you the “white” in me much at all? I know I have been socialized in ways I don’t even know, but I’m curious, and logical too, like you. Even asking these questions out loud I wonder if I phraises it right, or if there is a way to do it better… your note helps, so… Nice post! Robin

    Comment by Robin Rice | August 7, 2009 | Reply

    • Robin, this is exactly why I choose to express my experience, because it puts a person to these subjects rather than a blurry image. Many of my friends abroad never were close to a black person before… they were more than curious but terrified at crossing the line. I found it important to make it an accessible subject and now we don’t have the slightest concern or care about the differences in us anymore, thankfully. Maybe it’s good that the ‘reaching out’ is coming from this direction, to help level the field somewhat. As long as we all move gradually closer to just being our true selves, I will be satisfied.

      Don’t hesitate to pose any questions directly. I will be pleased to respectfully respond. Thanks, Sherrilene

      Comment by sherrilene | August 7, 2009 | Reply

      • Sherrilene
        Thanks for this beautiful sharing, it has triggered something off for me that I would like to express.

        The mention of aggression made me think about how I have at times tried to steer myself away from aggression / aggressive behaviour. And yet all emotion is energy in motion and hence can be viewed as potential rising. If we can support ourselves / others to get to the essence of what it is we want (desired change) versus what it is we do NOT want, we are well on our way to something better.

        Profound change often comes from the stirring of intense emotions. If we can stay curious when we experience the intense energy in anger, fear, frustration etc and get creative around channeling the passion in these emotions towards something that builds towards the greater good, this can be a wonderful thing. And so, I am trying these days to welcome all of my emotions and those of my boys (not easy)and to explore “ahh what is the potential arising here as these emotions surface.”
        Orientating to potential- what we (the world) want(s), away from problem- what we don’t want, can be truly transformative.
        Thanks for inspiring me to share
        xxx
        Denise

        Comment by Denise | August 9, 2009

      • A quick reply to Denise: I endorse your expression of true feelings. Feelings come with the package, I believe, and suppressing them leads to more harm than good.

        All energy has value and in time I am looking forward to us all permitting its movement and seeing where it will take us, and not attempting to control.

        Thanks for commenting! Best, Sherrilene

        Comment by sherrilene | August 11, 2009

  2. Beautifully written, Sherrilene. I love your personal take on it. Keep ’em coming 🙂
    Philippe

    Comment by Philippe Suzor | August 7, 2009 | Reply

    • Great to hear from you Philippe! Best, S

      Comment by sherrilene | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. Dear Sherrilene,

    My heart sings from the clarity of your words, wisdom and vision. I get such a zing of hope and possibility from the invitation you offer us… I am running with the commitment and pace of someone who knows we will get there… one step after another. In this post you have created a beautiful leap for us to take with grace and ease towards a brighter future. Warm hugs Terrill

    Comment by Terrill Welch | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  4. Like you, Sherrilene, I chose from a very early age to view the world quite differently from others. Where I grew up there existed an unwritten and undiscussed, but well defined, “divide” between the races. I recall the time one of my brothers brought one of his black friends home and afterward we were all given stern warnings from our father never, ever to bring another black into the house. We all thought this very strange.

    I also recall in the early 90’s taking my entire office staff and their families to Florida when we all earned a trip after reaching our business goals. One of my employees was black. When we went to the beach she wanted tanning lotion, which I thought was odd. In my view I couldn’t understand why a black person would need protective lotion from the sun. Well! She lovingly scolded me and explained that blacks can get a sunburn just as whites do!!!! That little incident taught me a valuable lesson . . . we are more alike than different. I never “assumed” after that.

    Today I count among my dearest and most cherished friends people of so many racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds and heritage to outline them here would be quite lengthy. Aley and I celebrate this diversity. Our lives are infinitely richer by “rubbing elbows” with others from quite literally every race, creed and continent of the planet.

    Are we “there” yet? Many are, some aren’t. Some may never get it. I am watching and reading about the community meetings being held in the US regarding health reform. I see nothing but fear. Fear of change, fear of “others”, fear of losing something. So very sad. Would that everyone could take a black person to the beach and learn the valuable lesson that protection from the sun is just as important as for those with less pigmentation.

    Comment by Keith | August 7, 2009 | Reply

    • Keith, it is funny that I had a similar experience on the beach in France with some very white friends 🙂 I actually felt a bit out of place since they were trying really hard to get some colour and I was trying not to be burned!

      I must admit it is the obvious fear to ‘go there’ in the U.S. political arenas that made me write this blog. I believe there are more people than we think who would like this race to be finished though. I got upset after Pres. Obama was elected, and he was constantly referred to as the first black President, as if this was the only thing which defined that great man.

      But it was indication of the fear base… which has got to go!

      Thank you so much Keith, Sherri

      Comment by sherrilene | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. Sherri, my “race” experience has some similarities so I can identify. However, my experiences started a lot earlier in life with my “high brown” and “white” cousins (dozens of them). My family was always big on the “extended family” and embraced aunties, uncles, cousins, cousins’ cousins from both lawful and common law unions.

    The house where I lived was built for two sisters by a white man whose relation to us is too complicated to get into in this forum. Needless to say, the house became family central, and was the meeting point over the years for the sisters’ and their children, their grandchildren and all their friends of every rainbow colour. Unfortunately, this deeper sense of family did not insulate all of us from the race issues.

    As I grew up (physically, culturally and spiritually) I realised that while the norm in and outside the family appeared to be that the darker the skin colour the deeper set the racism (another topic in itself), I saw all people as human and categorised them simply as kind or unkind, Christian or Un-Christian.

    I was able to accept that my thinking was different and ignored all comments that I was too soft, or too tolerant. However, I was constantly reminded of my grandmother’s admonition: “don’t mek no more o’ nobody than they mek o’ you” and realised that this was not a warning against how other people saw themselves (based on colour). It was a warning about people’s influence or people’s judgement and their perceived advantage over us (the fear factor you alluded to. It was a lesson in self-confidence and self-appreciation.

    The “race” is not for the swift but for those who endure to the end.

    Comment by Donnah | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  6. As always, your writing strikes my heart! I too knew from a young age that I am (going to be) a global/universal being. I just felt it to the core and when I started to work I got to travel almost every year meeting people from around the world and realize how much similar we all are inside. So rather than focusing on the physical differences it’s really more loving and fruitful to look at every ‘new acquaintance’ heart to heart. The heart doesn’t mind the color, race or whatever! I so cherish our friendship, Sherri and I know we’ll be meeting face to face once again soon! Much love!

    Comment by Mila Shakya | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  7. We are all the same look alike within our interior body but we do not care for it and minding the exterior only. This is our main fault.

    Comment by shanmugananda | August 8, 2009 | Reply

  8. Sherrilene, this year has been such an awakening to the difficulties of racism for me as I’ve been seeing it thru the eyes of my
    (what do you call a 52 year old partner? ‘Boy’ friend seems a bit silly as he’s a bit too old for that title!~grin~)

    He’s from Guyana, has a wonderful accent, beautiful dark skin and dreadlocks, a wonderful cultural background, and the sweetest personality!My opinion is a bit biased of course!

    I thought my college town was tolerant, color blind, friendly towards all people… I was very wrong and was hurt deeply by the daily frustrations Paul and I have to deal with. How STUPID people! Wake UP and be a part of the year 2009 not the 1900’s!

    What happens when a ‘mixed’ couple goes out in public? Well, I’ve found that I’m sometimes hated by some of the black girls. We are also hated by many of the older white men. I have to think about where we go out of town because the small towns can be very hostile places and sometimes dangerous. Other black men nod toward Paul, sometimes as if he’s made a conquest of me, sometimes as if they feel they are getting back at ‘the white man’ by dating his women… grrr! Thankfully, for most people it’s a non-issue.

    We went to a river to swim about a 45 minute drive from our city. Oregon has rugged wilderness and we found a great swimming hole in a canyon. We had another friend with us. He is white. The three of us were by ourselves for awhile but later on in the day a family of all whites joined us by the river. I was tense for the first little bit because I was pretty sure these people were from the small town up the mountain and had probably never seen anyone black in their entire lives.

    Fortunately, Paul and our friend David are very outgoing and friendly… those people didn’t have a chance to be racist! Paul swam by them in the freezing cold water of the river hollering that “black people shouldn’t be swimming in such cold water… they weren’t made for it!” It was so funny that everyone ended up laughing and the ice was broken.

    David and Paul had a long conversation about all the swimming holes in the area with the husband and I chatted with the wife and her twin boys. The twins were wide eyed seeing a black man with long dreadlocks swirling around his shoulders in the water bobbing along in the river! I believe it was a great learning experience for all of us, especially me, as I now know the best way to handle a tense situation like this is to be as friendly and outgoing as possible to make others feel comfortable with us as people.

    People in authority seem to be the hardest to deal with. Police are particularly difficult to win over. A black man in a beat up car is automatically assumed to have drugs and guns stashed away. It sort of messes them up when a white girl hops out of her nice pickup truck and makes a scene in the middle of the street… the drawn guns were over the top STUPID but that’s what they do best around here.

    I also feel afraid to ask questions of other people from different backgrounds because I don’t wish to offend by my ignorance. But there are burning questions I don’t have answers for like what color lipstick, blush, or eyeshadow looks good on dark skin? It’s my job to know these things as I work in a cosmetic department. I simply pull from my ‘inner artist’ and ask alot of generic questions but it sure would be nice to be able to say, “Hey, I want to try out pale pink lipstick on your skin type to see how it looks. Would that be okay with you?” without completely offending my customer.

    I’ve noticed that people of all skin tones do not want me to match their actual skin color. They want either much darker if they’re white and much lighter if they are dark.
    Some people with dark skin have areas where the skin is lighter in some places and they want to even out their skin tone but not to the lighter shade… it’s very complicated.

    White skinned people are trying to be darker… they want self tanners, bronzers, a shade too dark foundation… I spend alot of time with young girls teaching them not to end up with a white neck and a tan face… blend Ladies, blend!

    We all seem to spend so much time trying to become something or somebody else. My end all to the search for perfection is to make sure everyone plasters a smile on their face each and every day when they go out in public. No matter what, with a smile, you are beautiful to us all.

    Comment by Amber | August 9, 2009 | Reply

    • Amber, smile. Don’t stop. It’s the one thing that crosses cultures! With love, S

      Comment by sherrilene | August 11, 2009 | Reply

  9. What a picturesque reflection of your heart and soul Sherrilene. The race has started and is infinite. We will never fully know how brilliant we can shine until we leave this earth. Let’s enjoy and celebrate each other along the journey.
    With sunshine Elisabeth

    Comment by Elisabeth Gortschacher | August 10, 2009 | Reply


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