Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Open Letter to Whoopi Goldberg

Dear Whoopi,

I must admit, I have always liked you even though I think many would consider us far different. I am a guy who grew up in a black neighborhood, the projects if you will, and have grown up around blacks my whole life. I was even the pastor of a predominantly black church for a while. Now please don’t make the wrong assumptions here, I promise I am not the typical conservative Christian you see and hear on television, remember the first part of my introduction, I have always liked you, even though I haven’t always agreed with you. I think on the notion of Christianity it is sad how some make so many judgments. For example, I am sure you know of people like Barack Obama who also says he is a Born Again Christian and follower of Jesus Christ. I guess my point here is I don’t want to be discredited before you would hear what all I have to say.

I will try to be brief as I know your time, or the time of those reading this is valuable.

Growing up in the South and growing up in a black community I have always felt that our world should be in part about showing people the power and potential of love. Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t always believe this, but I honestly don’t think I have ever had a prejudiced bone in my body. I am 1/6th Cherokee or thereabouts and growing up in the community I did I always valued the importance of the individual, not the color of their skin. Again, God had to do some work in my life, while I was a decent kid in regards to getting along with people of different races; I wasn’t a decent kid in other areas. My life has changed though and I am pleased with that.

As I grew older I also became a person of faith who wanted to specifically show the world of the ability to love no matter what color and so forth, as a result my family adopted a mulatto child. Nathan was a little less than a month old when we got him. His birth mother had been raped and was a young teenager living at home. None of that really matters so much other than to say we made the commitment to raise Nathan to learn to love and learn about as much of his African American heritage as humanly possible. As a result he has done and seen many wonderful things. He is fully aware of my favorite poet, Langston Hughes, he has seen Danny Glover and met him while he plays the part of Langston, he has also seen and met Felix Justice one of the great actors who has performed many times as Dr. Martin Luther King JR and unlike many African American youth, he is fully aware of racial tensions and their history including the Tulsa Race Riots. Bottom line, Nathan is fully aware of his racial make up, proud of it, and we have made the point to do many things to allow him to be as black as he is white, remember we haven’t forgotten that he is after all mulatto.

One of the things we did with Nathan as a youth was to take him to see the wonderful play Master Harold and the Boys. I am sure you are aware of this play. At the time, Nathan must have been around 7 or 8 years old, he is 18 now so it was some time ago but the events of that night will never leave me.

Of course you are familiar with the play Master Harold and the Boys, it is actually one of the better plays to ever explore the relations between a white South African and his black servants. Within that play we see a relationship where we see what we perceive to be a good Master, but as the play progresses we see the relationship is not as good as we think. We see an attitude where things are not always as they seem and we see under rooted components of racism and their effects. All through out the play we hear the term “nigger.” Now let me be clear from this point on the usage of the word ‘nigger’, I hate that term, in my humble honest opinion it is the worst term in the English language. I hate it because I remember what it means; I remember how it was and still is used in many circles. I realize that for many this word don’t carry on the same meaning, I don’t understand that, as I do recall and am old enough to again, remember how the word was used and still is used in many circles.

Now back to the story of taking Nathan to see the play Master Harold and the Boys. After the conclusion of the play I will never forget an exchange between Nathan and me in the lobby of the theater. While there I asked Nathan what he thought of the play. I asked this while numerous people were standing around us. He said he liked it, but had a question. He asked, “What does that word mean that they kept using?” I knew which word he was talking about, but insisted that he tell me the word, “Tell me the word Nathan.”

“I don’t want to use it Papa, I don’t know if it is a good word or not.” He replied with sincerity.

“It’s okay son, go ahead and tell me the word you are talking about, what is it?” I asked while bending over and showing compassion and a desire to help him on this one.

“Nigger” Was the only word he spoke.

I responded with the historical aspect of the word, and with the meaning of the word as it was used in the play. I will never forget his response, and I think all of the people standing around in the theater lobby will not forget his reaction either. Nathan simply started crying and asking for an apology, I will never forget what his words were.

“I should have never said that word papa, I am so sorry, I should have never said that word.” He said this as tears started rolling down his cheeks and he started to sob. Nathan was then, and still is now, a carrying and loving child. As he has grown up and started listening to certain kinds of music, developing certain friends, they have perverted and misused the word, we have often times though, reminded him of those thoughts and feelings when he first used that word.

In my faith tradition, I believe in following the teachings of Jesus Christ, while many so called Christians have perverted his teachings and his beliefs, the person of Jesus is ultimately someone most people, from within most faiths respect. I guess here I am reminded of his words that unless we become like a little child we can’t see heaven. I also recall Jesus many teachings to love all people.

Whoopi, may I ask you and others this question, when using the word “nigger,” “nigga” or any version of it how does it show love. I recently saw the discussion with Elizabeth Hasselbeck on the television program The View. I have to say, I think Elizabeth was right on this one and that you and Sherri Shepherd made no sense in your argument, at least to me you didn’t. Again Whoopi, I have always liked and appreciated you, still do, but I have to ask you this, was that little boy in the lobby, who had seen the history in part of this word wrong when he said he should have never spoken that word?

We live in a world that as long as double standards are given, we will always have some level of confusion and conflict. Truth is, a double standard on the usage of this word is just not right. I know you will disagree, I am okay with that, but know this, there are children that sometimes have more wisdom than adults, I think at least in the case of my own son, in his own usage of this word, he showed a lot of wisdom, and I think he was right.

Thank you for your time, but after seeing and hearing all of the hoopla recently I had to write this. Hopefully it will at least get others to think about the usage of this word, or any other word that tears people apart and has a history in racism and hatred.

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