[Folayan] A Clear Path for the Journey | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Folayan] A Clear Path for the Journey

I recently experienced what I like to call my very own voyage to Mecca. Like one of my lifelong heroes, Malcolm X, I've encountered a brand new world, a new ideal and a new revelation.

Born and raised in an Afrocentric environment for most of my pre-adolescent years, my father introduced me to racial awareness, heritage, and cultural and self pride. My father was a strict man with very strong opinions. He would not allow us to wear straightened hairstyles, and we couldn't wear make up or nail polish; these things would show the world that I was not proud of looking black and preferred to look like a white girl.

During the 13 years he was here with me, I inherited a stern disdain for anything that wasn't "black," a wholesome hatred for those who didn't respect the pain of the black struggle in America. I especially learned to resent white people who appeared to own this attitude toward my people. I even taught myself that they were the reason I was forced to wear those damn braids until eighth grade.

I grew up in an all-black neighborhood. I went to school with Caucasians but had limited contact with them, by choice, except the occasional torment I proudly delivered to white girls around my locker. They reveled in whiteness, with their luxury cars in 10th grade, while we piled on that crappy, hot, old school bus. Their irritating smiles, like they had no worries; their chipper displays at 7:30 each morning—I took their peace as an insult. They were the reasons, indirectly, for everything that made my people kill each other, rob each other, drop out of school, work hard and die broke. Why? Because the peace passed down to them at birth, the peace they flaunted in our faces, is exactly what we—black people—lived every day trying to find. Just for a moment. They got to have it freely, just by being born white. I was sickened by it.

In every encounter I had with a white person, I was prepared to be mistreated by them. I believed that no person born with a pale face could ever genuinely be my friend. I believed that "they" were out for themselves, so we should be out for ourselves. I felt I was one up on them by knowing that they were evil deep down.

My life was interrupted from its regular ease by the opportunity to face my beliefs head on. My journey began with comments under a recent column by Kamikaze, ""Let the Chickens Roost"," and my Mecca was the Jackson Free Press.

Get this! Not all white people are out to get me, or us. There are white people living right next door to me, in my city, that have experienced pain and hurt at the hands of racists. These people are disgusted by the tactics of their ancestors, and in some cases their immediate family members. They've been disowned for not agreeing that black people are inferior to whites. They've been insulted and called traitors just for having black friends or for not hating blacks. They are just as pissed off about it as I am, as my father was. These people are white people. I'm talking real white—not biracial or underprivileged. These are regular, hard-working, sensible, white folks.

I now have chatted with those who have accepted that the racial disharmony between whites and blacks must be addressed. I have talked to mothers who have no idea how to deal with their children because they aren't sure how to present the "black/white" issues, not wanting to seem racist, but wanting to offer pride in the culture that claims them. I thought for so long that it had to be one or the other. Ironically, my son, to whom I've been regurgitating this uninformed idea since he entered this world, has realized that his mommy "just doesn't get it." He told me that I should not judge a person by the color of their skin. Isn't that amazing? Our children are better equipped to teach us about racial harmony than we are at teaching them.

I know that racism exists. I know that some believe it always will. The difference in me today is that I now realize that making general statements regarding one race or the other is singing out in ignorance. Just as there are exceptions to every rule, there are white people who know that their grandpas and great-grands were racists. They are willing to walk away from their family rather than give in to this injustice. For one to do that, they must be pure at heart, or at least have a strong belief in right vs. wrong.

Kamikaze's column begged me to face myself. It asked me to redirect my entire mindset to determine what my soul deemed fair and equal. I had to analyze my truths, to evaluate my father's actions instead of his words. When I did that, I realized that my father was even more amazing than the "amazing" tag I had given him. Because of his self–awareness, he "knew" his time with me would be short; he was aware that his work would go unfinished. He knew it would become my challenge to continue his work.

I couldn't have been effective at doing this by continuing to display the same attitudes as the racist whites I had come to despise. I had to appreciate the struggle from the other side. I had to learn how to deal with white people all over again. I had to learn to give respect in order to receive it.

When my father named me, he announced my destiny: Help people walk with dignity. I can now accept my role in the evolution of a non-racist society. All people deserve to be treated with dignity, just because they breathe. That's all. Nothing more. If the path is clear, then the journey will proceed. Hopefully, now, I can add a ray of light to that path. Through raising awareness and making a united stand, this path seems obtainable to me. We've got to learn to be brothers and sisters regardless of our skin color. I am dedicated to help all who seek it find their own "voyage to Mecca."

Peace and power.

Previous Comments

ID
119044
Comment

Love it. YOU are amazing :) And I love the line, "I had to learn to give respect in order to receive it." Okay, I love more lines than that ONE, but it strikes me right now. I'd always heard that "You have to give respect to get respect." I've heard it especially from the classroom where I am the minority. Since the first time I was the minority (I was 22..right out of college...), I've worked very hard at understanding what respect looks like to different people. I'm still learning. All that to say, sometimes, and with some folks, that line is just a line, and no matter how hard you try, they still won't respect you the way YOU define respect. Don't ever let that keep you from doing what you're doing :) I'm glad you've been a part of my journey!

Author
emilyb
Date
2008-04-30T17:56:57-06:00
ID
119045
Comment

All people deserve to be treated with dignity, just because they breathe. There you go...RIGHT THERE!!! Ought to be a Commandment!

Author
Sandy Smith
Date
2008-04-30T18:19:53-06:00
ID
119047
Comment

Go 'head, Queen! I hope a lot of people learn something from your writings. You tickled me about the braids. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side because I didn't get to wear braids that often and preferred them over the hot comb. Nothing like the smell of frying hair on a Saturday afternoon.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-30T18:29:42-06:00
ID
119049
Comment

Awesome Queen, LOVE this! Can't wait to read more...

Author
andi
Date
2008-04-30T18:40:36-06:00
ID
119053
Comment

I really admire your introspection, Queen. Keep going toward the light, and keep putting it out there.

Author
willdufauve
Date
2008-04-30T20:09:20-06:00
ID
119628
Comment

Excellent Queen. Like all enlightened and well intended people, I'm willing to like and love anyone who will like and love me too, regardless of race, class, color, sex, looks, etc; but I will not deny or disregard my hard learned or gained knowledge of the facts of my existence and circumstances or the treatment of black people, indians and other less fortunate persons of all races just to be accepted or included by the remaining racists and prejudice people still insistent on holding on to their dominating and discriminatory ways. My clarion charge or call is to hurt racist, prejudice, dominating, imperialistic, evil and colonizing people or empires, not assist them.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-01T09:05:30-06:00
ID
119644
Comment

Dear "Walt," Where does Queen say she plans to enable racists? And I understand your clarion call, but how do you define a "racist"?

Author
emilyb
Date
2008-05-01T10:52:39-06:00
ID
119648
Comment

Miss Emily I'm not repeating anything Queen said. I'm merely stating my position on the matter. I know too well that there are people willing to accept me first hand or more readily if I concede past wrongs or ignore them. Talking about the past unnerve and hurt the feelings of some people to the extent that they can't freely talk about that and still be loving and friendly toward me. I can never be true friends with that kind of person because they want a relationship beyond or despite the truth, in my opinion. The truth is bigger than any feelings. What is your definition of a racist before I give mines.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-01T11:00:12-06:00
ID
119650
Comment

I asked first :) It's rude to answer a question with a question. There is a huge difference between someone with hate in his/her heart, and someone who is ignorant to the truth. And I'm reading your "position on the matter," but I'm really not seeing the connection with the overall theme of the piece. You say you are responding to the "matter," but I guess I'm reading either/or reasoning into your first post. What is the "matter" to which you are responding?

Author
emilyb
Date
2008-05-01T11:40:48-06:00
ID
119651
Comment

And it's Ms. Emily :P

Author
emilyb
Date
2008-05-01T11:45:45-06:00
ID
119654
Comment

Miss or Ms., does it make a difference to this piece or this discussion? The matter I speak of includes race relations between blacks and whites such as friendships, intermingling, platonic and other relationships, the coming of age or a clear path for the journey. If you're suggesting I'm calling all remaining whites racist, I'm certainly not doing that. I was referring to those who are racist and not those who aren't. I'm not unenlightened or unschooled enough to beleive that all whites have grown beyond seeing me as an "other" unlike them, a black person or the n-word. Believe me Ms. Emily I know well what I'm saying and doing by these comments. If hate and ignorance cause me the same pain, would I appreciate any difference from whence they came? I do note the different mental thought though albeit slight or undetected. According to many people a racist is someone who believes in the superiority of one race over another or prejudice or hatred of one race over another or discriminating behavior of one race over or toward another one. Aren't you a school teacher? I beleive you teach one of my sons.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-01T12:11:37-06:00
ID
119656
Comment

Miss makes a difference in this discussion. "Miss" was a cultural mandate to use with white women. "Miss" has another negative connotation to mean an "unmarried woman." It's very loaded, and I do think is relevant to the discussion. I'm not suggesting that you are suggesting that all remaining whites are racist. I'm saying the post confused me, and I don't get the connection. I was hoping you could explain to make it clearer to me. Okay, so hate and ignorance cause pain, as they should. However, the difference with hate and ignorance is that ignorance can do better as it knows better. Hate will hate regardless. I also don't think anyone owns the market on personal pain. Now the abuse of power yes, but personal pain as a result of someone's ignorance, no. Is your son state testing today?

Author
emilyb
Date
2008-05-01T12:29:28-06:00
ID
119657
Comment

I test my own son since I home school him. I only let him come to school once and awhile so as to make him whole and so that he can interact with other students. He's advanced like his daddy and he's a better speller and writer than me although still only a young boy.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-01T13:02:09-06:00
ID
119658
Comment

Ms. Emily all I was trying to say in that convoluted comment is that a good and sustaining relationship whether friendly or otherwise must be based on residing truth and honesty otherwise it will likely falter when and if tested by truth or turbulence at some point.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-01T13:08:56-06:00
ID
119714
Comment

A Definiton of Racism To Consider 1) ALL people are "prejudiced". That is they "pre-judge" people they don't know (well). You have to make decisions many times based on little, no, or imperfect information about people. You can't help it. Yes, I can undrstand how people can pre-judge people based upon their perceptions of the characteristics of a person based upon racial sterotypes. FOR EXAMPLE: When a middle aged white (or middle aged black person for that matter) crosses the street or closes their car window when a 6'-0" tall young black male wearing the baggy pants around their knees, massive jewelry..i.e a "gansta rapper costume" approaches, they are exhibiting their prejudice..their pre-disposition to react in fear to a stranger based upon the sterotyped dangerous behavior associated with the sterotyped costume. In my opinion, this response is perfectly understandable. Prejudices based upon stereotypes, folklore, the TV show COPs and the evening news cannot be avoided! It's simple human nature to respond to a stranger based upon the sterotype when no other information is available. 2) Prejudice becomes "racism" when the reaction to the sterotype is combined with utilization of power that results in the demeaning, subjegation or to the detriment of the sterotyped target. FOR EXAMPLE: Police arrest same 6'-0" young black male in "gansta rap costume" because a crime was reported to have been committed by a "4'-0" black male" If you have no power to effect my life, I really don't care what you think of me....."sticks and stones". Your prejudice stays in your head and at a distance. But when you OR THE INSTITUTIONS that represent you, and/or you support, either actively or passively, exerts political, economic or social power (racism) systematically to my detriment, I have a problem with you and your institutions. I have very rarely run across a white person in MS who exhibits sterotypical white racist behavior; however, I am negatively affected by the racist policies of white dominated institutions every day. You could switch the black and white tags above and the definitons still ring true. Just my opinion...based partially upon the training I received as a member of a Leadership Jackson class.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2008-05-02T16:15:58-06:00
ID
119720
Comment

I cetainly appreciate the comments here and the support I've gotten regarding my voyage to my mecca. The truth of the matter here is that this is a beginning to an end. Walt I certainly understand your position. I am not looking to continue allowing my interpretation or my opinion be the foundation for friendships or relationships at all. Meaning the guard that I taught myself was so necessary, will no longer interfere with my progress. The progession of allowing people to determine my opinion of them. Instead of determining, on my own, with great haste, how I should react, interact or relate to every white person I meet. I will allow whites, blacks, indians, and everyone else present their personalities to me with an open mind AND then make the determination about their personality and their position on race relations. I have been cheating myself and others by not offering this opportunity - as you've stated you've already crossed this path in your journey. I am just being introduced to it. It is a process and I welcome the opportunity to embark on this next phase of my life. Since this column began in my mind, I have done this with great ease. It's not as hard as one would think....to allow a person the benefit of hanging themselves OR of prooving themselves. It's just not something I've practiced thus far in my life. Again....I sincerely thank all each of you for your support and your willingness to accept change. STAY TUNED.....

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-03T10:46:26-06:00
ID
119721
Comment

Queen, this is beautiful. I love your name too. Please don't be a stranger to these columns. I also enjoyed listening to you on JFP Radio. I believe in my heart that if more people here in Jackson had the courage to express themselves the way you just did, we could set an example for the whole nation. Thank you 'sis'. And thank you JFP for giving us this tool that will build something so wonderful.

Author
saint H
Date
2008-05-03T10:50:37-06:00
ID
119724
Comment

That is exactly my intent...to help us build as a community. So, thank you saint H.

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-03T10:54:20-06:00
ID
119729
Comment

Yeah, Queen, your conviction to the new cause of racial harmony and bridging the racial divide or gap may eventually weigh on a player like me and make me a nicer and more forgiving person. But as the gun line man in the movie Life said "I ain't nice like" Queen. This edit thing is good. I now catch about a third of my errors.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-04T15:57:41-06:00
ID
119771
Comment

Walt I don't necessarily know if I'd call it being nice. It's really about being fair and human. I am not really striving to be a nicer person. Although I don't consider myself to be mean or whatever the opposite of nice is...I just think it's ultimately more important in the grand scheme of things to live by and operate in truth and fairness.

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-06T08:22:42-06:00
ID
119775
Comment

I agree Queen. I'm fronting a little bit, as usual. I'm happy to see the change in you. If I were the joking kind, I'd say I'm as happy watching the apparent change in you as Roger Clemens is watching a Hannah Montana concert and dreaming.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-06T09:13:22-06:00
ID
119820
Comment

Let me start by saying I have a richly mixed heritage from Indian to English. When my Mother was a child her Grandmother was a pure blood Indian. It was something to be ashamed of then - sadly so. Grandma Lucy was beautiful & I feel honored to have inherited some of her characteristics. I didn't see "color" as a child - my parents raised me to understand that everyone is equal. I thank them for that. In turn I have raised my own son the same and know in my heart he will follow in my footsteps. Right on girl.

Author
sharon
Date
2008-05-07T10:16:53-06:00
ID
119824
Comment

Sharon I gotta tell you I have really been in the dark for 30 years. It's crazy. I never considered how my ideals would affect my child. I only knew one way to address the race thing to him and that's what I did. I find it completely amazing that he somehow came to a better place than I presented to him - all on his own. I am still stunned over that. I guess he has a stronger inclination of right and wrong and fairness than his mother had ever learned. I still make sure that he understands my point of view, but I find that my 12 year old has to do a lot of counseling with me. But he loves it and I love it. It's truly a blessing. Maybe our hope for the future does lie with the kids of today. Thanks for your feedback.

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-07T15:04:04-06:00
ID
119825
Comment

I believe that our children are much more accepting than even we were. It's a good thing.

Author
sharon
Date
2008-05-07T15:18:40-06:00

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