I grew up in a small town in south Georgia (United States of America). Some of my experiences in this town helped to shape my perception of people. I will give you a brief overview of the history of the area that I grew up in.
Just a few hundred years ago, the Southeast itself was a hub for slavery and agriculture. The slaves came from the continent of Africa and were stripped of their culture and identity by European settlers. Many slave-owners viewed slaves as cattle, items, and a means to an end; but not as humans. (Not all people thought this way. There were some abolitionists who saw that slaves were human.) In 1865 slavery was abolished, but its existence still impacts many of us today. Although this was hundreds of years ago, the mentality remains prevalent among several descendants of slaves and slave-owners.
My parents were born in the middle and late 1940’s and they grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s. They lived in a time where they used segregated restrooms, attended racially divided school districts, feared for their lives due to radical racists groups, and were made to feel inferior because of the color of their skin. As a child, I remember hearing my father instruct me to take heed and to be weary of the evils of “The White Man”. In my teens, I remember my mother telling me, “I’d rather you date your own kind.” I even had some experiences with racism myself. I was called racist names, got spit on for being different, was stereotyped several times at stores and in restaurants, and I was told that I was not good enough– just because of my ‘race’.
In spite of all of this, I couldn’t fully understand what the problem was. I didn’t see my skin color as a wrong, an evil, or a challenge. I saw my complexion as being simply beautiful as it was.
Thanks to my mother’s strenuous efforts, I had the opportunity to go to unique elementary and middle schools. These schools were called ‘magnet schools’ and they were like free private schools filled with diverse students from all over the world. I learned so much from the diversity at the magnet schools. I met kids from other countries such as Mexico, India, and Africa. I also learned a lot about other cultures and languages. It was like I went to school in a miniature, more peaceful version of the world.
I had very supportive teachers who encouraged me to excel and learn. I felt appreciated for being a gifted person, instead of feeling judged by my skin. I had a diverse set of friends, and loved them for who they were. It was a life-changing experience for me. The one thing that stood out for me was the realization that we all have basic human needs, no matter what we look like.
We all want to be loved, accepted as we are, feel valued, know that our lives matter, and feel safe. We all desire some level of companionship or community, benefit from some type of belief system, and need to know that our existence means something to someone somewhere.
Yes. You, me, and the person who is hundreds of thousands of miles away reading this same message…We Are All One Race.
We are all one race, but many colors. One race, but many cultures. One race, yet many expressions. We Are All Human.