As a person who grew up in the Philippines, a relatively “homogenous” population, you would think that discrimination based on skin color would be unknown to me. Yet I have seen it even in my home country. By sheer virtue of my lighter skin complexion, I was given more and better opportunities, and I am sure it allowed me to get away with some mistakes unscathed. It is a very real thing that power and privilege had, and it still has a specific “look” in the Philippines and many other countries, a look that is merely based on the color of your skin, the shape of your nose, or your natural hair.
If you have followed me in the past years, then you know that I married a white South African, someone who witnessed and experienced racism from the day he was born. He is from a country where racism was not only legal in its apartheid system but incestuously embedded in all aspects of life. As a “white” South African, he got all the “white” privileges. Why “white” you may ask…. simply put even within “white” there was a caste system too – The Afrikaans (Dutch descendants) on top, followed by the British… Northern Europeans (Germans, French, Scandanavians), then the Mediterranean Europeans (Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks); my husband being from the last caste as his parents were Portuguese immigrants. Thanks to spending most of his school life in private “Catholic” schools, which legally could be attended by people of color, apartheid didn’t stop him from having friends of color growing up (although it did implement another form of discrimination … religion; Cape Town is home to a large Muslim community, and Muslim students were forced to participate in Christian activities).
So, when I moved to the US 14 years ago, I didn’t fully recognize how terrible racism, prejudice, discrimination was here. However, I saw it in my eyes, and it is sickening. I used to hate the fact that some friends wouldn’t go to bars, restaurants, or even schools that had large black groups, but I didn’t say much about it then because… well… because it was just the way it was. However, my husband and I have made it a point that our kids will never treat people differently because of skin color. They will see the color, but still, accept and love them the way they are. One of the main reasons that we travel a lot is the very idea that it shows our kids the world – its beauty, people, different cultures, and see that their actions have a significant impact even they think they are just kids. As a mother, my hope is for my kids to understand that everyone may have different looks, beliefs, or social status; but we are all here in this world to help each other.
The past week has been about learning more and better understanding of our black friends. We continue our conversations about race and how we can do better as individuals, communities, and as a nation.
WE LISTEN. WE CARE.
As Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Those are truly humbling words from a man who experienced the worst that racism could inflict and still come out with a positive message.
But we know that words are meaningless if we don’t put them into action. Racism is a critical issue that needs an urgent response and decisive action. #BlackLivesMatter is not just a hashtag; it is not a trend; it is a movement that needs our help.
Here are some ways that you can help with your actions. These are just a few, and if you do your research, there are tons out there.
EDUCATING ourselves about racism, most notably in America.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, PhD
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Why I No Longer Talk To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
DONATING to support black communities and to fight for equality
- The Black Lives Matter Movement
- The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)
- The National Association of Black Journalists
- 13th by Ava DuVernay
- Just Mercy by Destin Daniel Cretton
- Freedom Riders by Stanley Nelson
- Rest in Power, The Trayvon Martin Story by Jenner Furst
- I Am Not Your Negro (2016) directed by Raoul Peck
TALK: Be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations with family and others.
Thank you for reading, and please leave a comment on all your suggestions. We are all learning!