Sometimes It’s Not So Black and White

REPOSTED FROM MAY 2015…Sadly even more relevant a year later.

And, sometimes it is.

I had said that I was unsure how the topics of this blog would unfold.  I surely did not think I would be writing about race this soon into starting this platform.  Baltimore is my hometown and I feel compelled to touch on the controversial topic because of that.  Well, to be a little more transparent, it is a topic that has affected my life and my being in profound ways so without a doubt this will not be the last time you hear from me about it.  And, I think, so much of it is in fact BLACK vs WHITE.

As I before mentioned, I was trans racially adopted.   I was so confused growing up.  So many people had told me that black and white people were so different.  That they innately did not get along.  I suppose I noticed that there were neighborhoods and schools that were a majority either race as evidence.  I surely experienced racism not being allowed into the homes or pools of friends I played outside with.  The N-word rings in my ear…still.  Or, from black people calling me a “sell out”, “oreo cookie”, or “soft”.   It was like I had to choose a side and when I did I would lose….externally and internally.

Deeply confused.  Why?  Because I would go home every night where black and white people loved each other, looked out for one another, and accepted one another.  So who was right?  The many people outside of my home or my family?  I think the Capshaws were right.

I am not dismissing the complexities of the topic of race or the broken relationship between the police and the black community.  I am not dismissing history, socioeconomic factors, or deep rooted failures in the “system”.   I am simply saying we have focused on the differences and not the similarities in all of us as human beings.

Perhaps if we unwind the complexities and focus on the basic black and white divide we may get somewhere.  I ask, and please be honest with yourself, have you ever looked at a black person and were scared?  Have you ever looked at a white person and assumed they did not have your best interest?   I have done both.  I didn’t even know them.  I was wrong.

I was given a gift when I was transracially adopted in 1971.  Did I always think that?  No.  But today I realize that I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, black and white, because I see things impartially.  I have also seen many people miss opportunities to meet wonderful people because of prejudices.  I suppose for some it is easier to see the differences than to remember that at our core there are far more similarities.  Because of my experiences in the middle I believe I have earned the right to say, STOP.

Please stop.  We are all human beings and strive for the best life possible, to be loved, to achieve, and to be accepted.  I worked in Fredrick Douglass High School (where the riots started) for three years.  I looked in these young people’s eyes daily, I hugged them, I broke up fights, I nurtured their insecurities.  I also, years ago, directed a summer camp that was majority white kids…I did the same thing.  All of these young people wanted the same thing….to feel included, cared for, and to be given a chance.  My point…something happens to the innocence of kids of all races that perpetuates our current divide.  WE happen, society happens, negative experiences happen…it becomes Black vs. White.

Evidence.  Have you ever watched a small child navigate a computer or tablet.  They are fearless.  But as adults we become afraid of hitting certain buttons because we think we will break something.  Or, how about watching black and white kids playing on a playground together…smiling, sharing, hugging.  But then as 16 year olds they sit at different, segregated tables in the lunch room.

I am on my knees asking for us to go back to the basic human needs of love and acceptance before we tackle the complexities of the debacle we are in now.  I could ramble on but simply want to bring this back to the basics.  There is a divide and it disregards basic human needs….we all know them because we all were kids once and frankly, as adults, we want the same. It’s us.

When I was about 14 or 15 years old I was about to get beat up by a group of white guys in the front of the Hollywood theater in Arbutus.  By chance, my older, white brother drove by with his friends and got out.  He stepped in and said something to the affect, “that is my brother, what’s up”.  Their response was, “no he isn’t”.  My brother then said, “Can’t you see it in our eyes”.  I am not sure my brother even remembers this even though I spoke to it as one of the most profound moments in my young life when I delivered my best man’s speech at his wedding.  Profound because it was clear to me that people did not see us as brothers because of our different skin color but even more profound because I knew at that moment that there was something bigger than that….the love and care my brother had for me.  He put a stamp on it…I was unequivocally his brother.

When my wife got pregnant with our first son, Jaxon, I secretly could not wait to have a biological child that resembled me….a brown skinned son.  I thought it would be easier on him and on me.  God had a different and deeper plan for my family.  Look deeper in his eyes…

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I will one day have to explain to him why his Dad is brown skin with brown eyes and he has sandy blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin.  What a lesson for me…and for you.  I realized quickly that while I thought I wanted a child that resembled me I simply wanted the connection of a father and a son.  A connection that had nothing to do with the color of our skin, eyes, or hair.  The truth is, he will resemble me in deep ways and if anyone was to look deep into our eyes they could not deny that we are father and son.

There is heavy accountability on both sides of this racial divide.  No matter how that accountability is weighed or how we got here, the fact is that today both sides have work to do.  And it starts with going back to the basics and resetting our intent.

In the name of my sons, Jaxon and Maxwell, I am asking, actually pleading, that we all choose to look deeper in the eyes of the people we encounter and look for the similarities, not the differences.  It’s real, the black/white divide.  And, the similarities are real as well.  Until we face that, we will never make true strides in unwinding  what has become an extremely complex phenomenon today.

I end with a quote by Miller Williams….”Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it.  What appears bad manners, an ill temper, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.  You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone”.

Will you peel back all your emotion and judgements and have more compassion today?

 

Stay True,

Ted

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26 comments

  1. This is an incredibly beautiful post. And once again, I could not agree with you more. My hope is that I teach my children to look not at color, socioeconomic status, gender, or any of the ways that we can differ from one another, but to continuously look for the ways we are the same. My parents gave me that gift and my intention is to pass it along. Thanks for talking about this subject. I can only imagine how challenging it was, and also enlightening and heart-filling, as a child to grow up in a family where there were lots of different colors, but the colors only mattered to those on the outside. Let’s hope we can start teaching people that the colors don’t matter – inside families or outside of them. It is character that matters, and everyone can choose to have good character.

  2. I am so blessed to be part of this Capshaw family and have learned so much over the years from you all!! I really appreciate this post Ted related to your thought that we all need love and acceptance, and that is the starting point. When I was volunteering and then working in SE D.C. with a group developing “The House, a place for youth”, we were putting all these different programs in place to connect with high schoolers in Anacostia after school. As youth started to come and get engaged, I quickly realized that these “programs” just got them in the door…what they yearned for was the love and acceptance that all of the staff and volunteers showered on them. How simple and how challenging it has become in our society because it requires time spent in relationships that are not focused on outcomes, but relationships as the end point. Thank you, Ted!

  3. Thank you for writing this , Ted. I have always wondered what it would be like for all of us to just treat each other as equals. As a white female growing up in a rural area, I didn’t even know a person with skin color different from mine until high school. Immediately, I found a connection with this person, as I do with anyone else I want to befriend. Throughout my adult life, I have found great joy in creating relationships with many different types of people…young, old, female, male, funny, boring, skinny, heavy, white, black, brown, and heck, even green (my neighbors lizard)!

    Despite the elation I feel inside from forming these connections, I have been suppressed by a society, and frankly an entire culture, that tells me that it’s not okay to feel that way and that I should instead use a prejudice as a filter. This is the basic human need you refer to: love and a desire to belong. It is my hope that every human being will be granted with one opportunity in their life to genuinely connect with someone different from themselves. It is from that one connection that will spark a change.

    Hugs to you, my friend. Keep the conversation alive!

    1. In the short time that has elapsed since my last reply, I felt compelled to elaborate. I am truly touched by what you have written in this post because it equates to how I feel every day. Being raised in, what I consider to be, “a tolerant” family, wasn’t easy for me, and to this day remains at times, uncomfortable. So often I find myself defending others…complete strangers…from the remarks of family or friends. I quietly make a comment, hoping the words I choose are impactful enough for them to reconsider their words. I’ve always wanted to find my place in supporting our socio-cultural change. Part of my hesitance is the one thing that drives my desire to defend…a sense of belonging. It is a cruel internal battle. I think my deepest fear is that if I action too loudly, that I in turn will lose precisely what I am trying to protect for others…the need to belong and the need to be loved, which ultimately is the root of what I believe to be our society’s brick wall.

      I am delighted to be on this “blog journey” of yours. I’m sure many of the topics you bring up will spark conversation. More so, I hope it sparks action.

      Love to you and the family. Xo

  4. Hi Ted, I just found your blog today, and I’m so glad I did. This is the potential I saw in the Ted who was my friend when we worked at Northview Jr. High. What a wonderful post! I’m so proud of the man you’ve become! Judy

  5. Ted,
    My kids struggle with not looking like us or each other too. Especially because I have “twins” that are not related. Being Hispanic and a red head has gotten them a lot of unkind remarks pertaining to the legitimacy of their relationship. One might expect it from children who are confused and uneducated about adoption but even adults have made it difficult for them. One lady decided to label them “artificial twins”.
    There is nothing artificial about our family or the love we all share. Our family motto has been “love makes a family” since we adopted the kids. This morning all three of the kids jumped in bed with me. I read them the part of your blog with you and Dan. They loved it. They told me next time someone points out how different they are they will simply say “we are the same. It’s in the eyes.”
    Love you Ted!

  6. My youngest brother is trans-racially adopted (funny, I’d never heard it called that). I remember being called several less than savory names, and I know he was, also. I also remember what my comeback was when called a N-word lover. “Of course I am, he’s my baby brother and I love him with all my heart!” (This was in the 1970’s). Maybe this is why I can’t understand racism (at least not on an emotional level). I see it, I hate it, but I just don’t understand it.

  7. Ted, your words brought tears to my eyes. Everything you said is 100% accurate. The world needs more people like you my friend.

  8. There are times in life when you don’t know what you’re doing but somehow your heart tells you to do it anyway. When Ted’s dad and I decided to adopt, it wasn’t about race, it was about children who needed families. We were a family who wanted more children. It was as simple as that. We just stepped out and did it. We had very little idea about the consequences of our decision. Our children, all five of them, lived the experience of being raised in a racially diverse family and it wasn’t always easy. Talk about resilience — my children have the market cornered on it! Each of us is, I believe, a stronger and more compassionate person because of one another. We have been extraordinarily blessed. Thank you Ted for your honest and heartfelt words which I know come from your courageous lived experience.

    1. You & your husband and family did a wonderful job. You taught us so much. Our daughter was in Ted’s grade school class.

      1. Hello All,

        I have chosen not to reply to every comment (although I feel compelled to do so) because I want this section to be about the reader’s voice and not mine. I appreciate you plugging into the blog and commenting. I am strong believer that true learning takes place when dialogue happens and that is what I ultimately want this platform to be…dialogue. If my voice is muffled by the comments…I win…we win. If we learn anything here we will learn that in so many instances we do not walk alone. Thanks for joining in and please continue this journey with me.
        Stay True,
        Ted

  9. My husband And I are cousins with your mom Eileen. She did an amazing job. What a great blog and awesome family. Stay true
    Karen and Doug

  10. I grew up in a family that believed you stay with your own race, no mixing. I am so glad I can see people beyond their skin. If you love someone and are good to them, then color shouldn’t matter. If you take the time to really look inside you will find we really are the same. Love the posts. Keep them coming .

  11. That was good. Its funny bc the other day I was watching trey and some other boys playing basktball in front of our house. 5 were black and 1 white boy and I was thinking how great it is to see these young kids get along so good. To not see color but to just see each other as kids playing basketball. We could all take a lesson from that. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Great blog post . Thanks for it and for being my brother…and talk about you getting a gift with our family…I was gifted with your and liz presence in the capshaw family too. Beside having a great bro and sis, I feel like I see the world through much wiser eyes when it comes to race. And beyond that I feel like because of our unique family experience I am more human and compassionate…..also the quote at the end of the post is awesome…i know it because his daughter is one of my favorite songwriters. She recently made that poem the title of her latest album and song. Watch “Compassion” on YouTube
    https://youtu.be/zevp7oVm3Tw

  13. Cappy,

    Great story about your brother and the irony of that story correlating back to today and the “eyes” of your son. Great message as usual.

    Rainer

  14. So true and there are still families that are all of the same color who have a divide and this is so sad. Life is too short to hold unforgiveness in your heart. You just have to let things go or it will consume you. Not everyone thinks the same. We have to embrace differences and celebrate our likeness.

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