I want to introduce to you my dear friend, Faith Jones. She is a beautiful 47-year-old black female who currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA. Faith supports herself and her family as an Accounting Technician for the City of Norfolk, VA. She has four children – two teen boys, one teen girl and one young adult woman. It is evident that Faith values the lives of her children more than anything else in this world. I personally worked with Faith at church. She has been a Sunday school teacher for years and has a great passion for children. Faith in an honest, caring, rational, and approachable “mama bear” type and I am honored to be writing this post about her life and her perspective on current events.
Last night Faith and I spoke on the phone for over 2 hours. I asked her questions and she answered as follows.
Faith, please tell me about your background:
I was raised by both my parents in the south side of Chicago. I had one sister and two brothers. Compared to those around us, we were like “The Brady Bunch.” My father was a P.E. Teacher at an elementary school and my mother was a clerk at another elementary school. My siblings and I went to a very racially eclectic elementary school. Many different races and cultures were represented. My parents thought it was extremely important for us to be raised around as many different people groups as possible. As a result, I learned not to judge people by the color of their skin.
High school was a different story. I went to a predominately black school that did not allow just anyone to enter. You had to keep up on your studies, but this does not mean we didn’t have our gangs and cliques. It was far from perfect, but I had a great high school experience until my father passed away my senior year. After I graduated, I moved upstate New York to nanny for a family member.
My city in upstate New York was predominately white. My cousins and I use to go to the mall and count how many black people we saw because there were not many of us at all. It was at this point of my life that I discovered that white people feared me simply because I was black.
I got a job at McDonalds and worked with mostly white people. When I became a shift manager, a white woman about my age (early twenties) commented about how nice I was. She was in shock that I was kind to her and told me that she thought all black people were mean. This is where I began to learn how to better relate to white people in general.
After a few years, I moved back to Chicago. My mom passed away in 1989, which left my 9-year-old brother an orphan. My sister and I shared custody of him and raised him for the remainder of his adolescence. It was during this time that I met and dated my two oldest children’s father. He was a good man, but we had relationship issues that we could not overcome and decided to split up. He remained a great father to our children until he passed away in a tragic accident.
After that, I met my two younger children’s father in the Bahamas. He struggled to get citizenship in the United States, which was hard on us, but I had 4 kids to worry about. I went back to school full-time and in 2002 earned my AA in Business Administration. I packed up my children and moved to Virginia where I began working for the City of Norfolk as a temp for $5.70 an hour. One year later I got a pay raise to $6.00 an hour. It paid off though because in 2004, I was offered a salary paid, full-time, permanent position with the City of Norfolk.
Faith did you experience racism as a kid?
Oh yes. When I was about 10-years-old, my family and I visited Huntsville, Alabama. I and two other little girls decided to walk to the nearby town to buy some candy. On our way, several men drove by in a truck. They were hanging out the widows yelling “Go home niggers.” The girls I was with started crying, but I was just confused. I had never even imagined that someone would consider me a nigger. I related this word to someone on TV who was dirty, had nappy hair, worked on a cotton farm and got beat for not obeying his “master.” When it hit home, I began to cry too. My dad was furious; it was the only time in my life I saw him so angry. We even went looking for the truck, but never found it.
Another incident happened when I was a young adult. I was with one of my best white girlfriends, Tammy, shopping in the Coach Outlet store. At that time, I worked, had no bills and no kids, so I had money to spend. When I asked the retail clerk how much a particular bag was she responded that I probably could not afford it. She then asked that I leave my shopping bags upfront, but did not ask my white friend to do the same. Lastly, she asked me to leave if I wasn’t going to buy anything. My friend Tammy was furious and went off on the clerk, but I knew nothing would change this lady’s mindset and mom always taught me not to pay back ignorance with stupidity.
Do you think racism has gotten better or worse?
I have not personally been a victim of racism for a long time, but I am sure it is still out there. In my opinion, things have gotten way better. In the 60s black people were being hosed down on the streets and kicked out of public establishments just because of their skin color. Black people seem to be generally accepted nowadays. I do feel the media and people’s perceptions are being stirred up which is very scary to me. I have black children to think about and the media and certain people are making our current issues a “black/white thing” instead of a “right/wrong thing.” This causes division among races and with so many biracial families out there now, this is troubling. It has taken a long time to reach the racial unity we currently have and if this frenzy continues we could actually re-create racial tension that we have already moved passed and this will be very bad for our society.
Why do you think there is such a sudden uproar?
I think people are frustrated because there is a look of injustice when unarmed young black men are losing their lives and no one seems to care that this is someone’s child. However, I don’t think it is fair or right to make this a “black/white issue.” The D.C. Sniper was a black man killing white people, but everyone seems to forget that this infamous man was black. We did not turn that into a racial thing. Further, in my hometown of Chicago, black on black crime is out of control. This isn’t a race issue. This is an issue of what is right and what is wrong. I respect the law and believe that if a police man’s life is being threatened he must take out the suspect, but it seems like in some of these current cases, the cops were too quick to shoot and kill. I believe policemen should be highly scrutinized when they take a life and they should have to prove that they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their very life was being threatened. But to me this is not an issue between a white cop and a young black man; it is an issue between a cop and young man. Making this a racial issue is making everything worse.
There seems to be a lot of anger; do you think there is something we have swept under the carpet that we need to deal with?
My opinion is that we cannot hold the current generation accountable for the sins of the past. As black people, we have to stop allowing people to victimize us. If someone wants to call us “victims” we need to ignore them and call ourselves “victors!” It really bothers me when we say to each other, “Stop acting white.” This implies that only white people can be intelligent, responsible, and respectful human beings. It really bothers me when I see young black men with their pants on their hips, standing on the corner, smoking a cigarette, and asking for money. This doesn’t make their life any less valuable, but it does make them foolish. I always tell my sons that they are not defined by what people call them, but by what they answer to. Both black people and white people need to let go of anger and have respectful conversations. When we speak out of anger and attack others our message is lost.
What is your message to young black men?
It is time for you to take individual responsibility for your life and claim your rightful place! It is not going to be easy to break free from old mindsets but you must choose to do it anyway. You are going to have work harder than your white peers, fight harder with your intellect, and present yourself better. Is it fair? No, it is not fair, but it is what it is and it is time to move forward. You cannot choose to quit, go home, smoke weed, and drink a 40. Black people in general have to rise above people’s perception of them and work harder, make better grades, and use their minds to fight harder at everything they do. It is not easy, but it is possible. I currently sit in a conference room with Norfolk’s city manager and help to make very important decisions for the City of Norfolk. It was not easy to get to where I am today, but possible.
What is your message to young black women?
You need to build yourself a solid foundation doing these three things:
- Educate Yourself. If you cannot afford college, go to the library and read books, read the newspaper, and seek to understand people. No one can take away your knowledge and education makes you less easy to manipulate.
- Respect Yourself. If you do not respect yourself, no one else will either. If you want to put yourself on the sale rack, nobody is going to be willing to pay full price for you. Don’t wear clothes that make you appear to be cheap. Value your body. If a man is complementing you on your body parts, he is not interested in anything but your body. Wise up!
- Love Yourself. I don’t mean arrogance. If you truly love yourself you will value your goals, dreams, and accomplishments and you will present yourself to the world well. I don’t care if you are the fry maker at McDonalds – You be the best fry maker you can be because nobody wants Shaquita back there with her fake eyelashes falling off making their fries!
If you build your life on this foundation you won’t get into abusive relationships and you will go far. Sometimes things will happen that will shake this foundation, but if you built it once, you can build yourself back up again.
Finally, your voice matters! Put some clothes on baby and watch your mouth. Work on your relationship with God. He is always standing there waiting to forgive us and help us do better in our lives. All you have to do is open the door and let Him in. He doesn’t promise us He will take away all our problems, but He does promise that He will walk us through our problems, always take care of us, and never leave us alone.
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