Covered in Shame

During a recent call with one of my spiritual big sisters, we talked about generational curses and other negative things that were passed to us even before birth.  She shared with me some things that she felt the Holy Spirit revealed to her about her spiritual lineage and it caused me to think about my own.  There are some obvious patterns that even the average person can see, but what would I find if I dug a little deeper?  I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like while my mother was carrying me.  I wanted to know if she felt bonded with me, or if she was ambivalent.  I wanted to know more about her during that time as much as I wanted to know about myself.

A couple of weeks later I took my aunt, my mother’s older sister, to lunch.  As I was driving her home I asked, “How was my mom when she was pregnant with me? How did she act?  Did she seem happy?” Before giving me any information about my mother, she immediately, without hesitation, said “Mama made her cover up her stomach with a towel when she sat down at the [dinner] table.  She didn’t want anyone to know your mama was pregnant. She tried to hide it.”  The “anyone” my aunt was referring to was my mom’s five other siblings.  Later that same day, speaking to another aunt that is married into the family and mentioning this story to her, she told me that her husband, my uncle has said on occasions of discussing our family “I was the only one at school with a pregnant fifteen year old sister.”

The revelation that I got from these two simple stories was profound.  As an adult who has made my fair share of mistakes and poor choices, I struggle with feelings of guilt and shame, sometimes to the point that they cripple me and hinder my happiness and ability to receive love and joy, even God’s love and joy.  I recently realized how deeply my spirit is steeped in these inaccurate thoughts.  These two brief conversations with two different aunts were truly eye opening.  I came to the realization that I was born into shame.  Being a writer, it was not lost on me that my grandmother covering my mother’s stomach with a towel was a metaphor for her literally covering me in shame.  My conception wasn’t celebrated or welcomed.  It was, I was, my mother was…seen…as an embarrassment.  I left those conversations with a depth of understanding that shame literally followed me out of my mother’s womb.   And this knowledge freed me!

After the initial jolt of sadness wore off from knowing my grandmother was so embarrassed by me, I laughed at the irony of how God made me.  I was one of the most talkative, chatty, precocious children ever!  One of my mom’s friends paid me one time to stop talking.  (This really happened!) I started singing and entertaining my family, pretend mic and stage and all, at about 4 years of age.  I excelled in school, in music, in extracurricular activities.  I was outgoing and bubbly! I was a cheerleader, literally. One of my middle school teachers was a former classmate of my mother’s and I remember him saying to me once that I was nothing like her at that age.  He seemed to look at me in a sort of bewilderment as he spoke.  He told me that she was very shy and quiet and not involved in any activities.  I was, in his words, her total opposite. I thought of all these characteristics, these God-given gifts of my personality that made up my spirit, and I saw how God never intended for me to be hidden.  He did not want me to be ashamed.  I know my grandmother didn’t know what she was doing, but God did.  Everything about me from a very young age said “I’m here!  Look at me! God made me and gave me these gifts!  I’m His child!  You will not hide me or shame me for existing!  I was meant to be here!  I have a purpose, even if that purpose is just to make people smile when they are around me!

Other things started to make sense to me as well;  it’s hard enough to shake emotions like shame and guilt when you realize the magnitude of your own mistakes, and how you’ve hurt or disappointed the people that you love,  but it’s nearly impossible to do when those things were put on you without your permission, by no choice and no fault of your own, by simply being conceived.  I began to understand why it was so difficult for me to forgive myself, or to even accept Christ’s love and forgiveness.  These feelings were in my literal DNA.

God gave me a vision as I was lying in bed one morning dwelling on my past, the part that I wasn’t born with…the part that I created including all of my many mess ups and awful choices.  I saw Jesus carrying His cross.  (I actually recalled the scene from Passion of the Christ.) I remembered in that movie, how heavy the physical weight of this huge wooden cross was and how difficult it was for Jesus to bear its weight on His shoulders.  He was in such agony.  It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said “The cross, by itself, was so heavy already…how much heavier do you think it was with the weight of all of your sins on it?  All the sins of the world…past, present, and future. Jesus did that for you.  He carried, not just that cross, but all of your sins with Him, on His shoulders, on His back,  so that you wouldn’t have to live in guilt or shame.”  I don’t think I ever understood the purpose of the cross and Christ’s death so clearly before.  In all my years of believing in Christ, in that moment, it dawned on me that I never truly accepted His forgiveness and I was living in a world where I continuously punished myself and negated what He did for me when He willingly laid down His life.  By not accepting His forgiveness, I was likely hurting Him more.

I try to live each day now with this vision at the forefront of my mind.  Any time those shameful feelings try to creep in, or those voices that say “you don’t deserve to be happy, look what you did back in 1996 or 2008 or yesterday.”  I pray them away.  I rebuke and renounce them.  And I live each day to the fullest, trying to be better than the day before, forgiving myself, loving myself and those around me, seeking His wisdom, and relying on His grace and mercy.  I am here.  I will not be ashamed.



Dear Rachel

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Dear Rachel,

I know you don’t know me, and everyone’s got an opinion, but allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Brandy and I’m a white woman who loves black people.  I mean really loves black people, like Tom Cruise’s character shouts in Jerry Maguire “I LOOOOVE BLACK PEOPLE!!!”  I love black people so much that I’ve never pretended to be one.  Love and admiration, are first and foremost, respectful.  And while some may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, flattery is still, at its essence, fake, vain, and self-serving.

Let me tell you a bit more about who I am, because that’s one thing I do know, Dear Rachel, is Who. I. Am.  I was raised, my entire life, in a predominantly black, middle-class neighborhood.  I was typically one of only four or five white kids in my class.  I lived next door to, played with, and was nurtured by black people.  I was baptized at the age of thirteen in a screamin’, shoutin’, sanctified Missionary Baptist Church.  I was partially raised and taught “home training” and how not to be “trifling” by a black woman with a Master’s Degree in Special Education who was quick to tell you that she was a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta. Unlike your seemingly fake racial “hate crimes,”I actually was witness to a cross burning in my family’s front yard.  I have been called “nigger lover” by white men for simply being in a parked car at a gas station with a black, male study partner.  I studied at Tennessee State University, an HBCU.  I have a biracial son.  I have, aside from two short- lived, went nowhere, felt nothing relationships, dated and fallen for, only black men.  My list of things that make me more culturally aware than the average white person goes on and on. I feel blessed and fortunate to have had this as my experience and thankful to God for placing me in that environment to grow up with an open mind.  So, trust me, if anyone understands a white person’s love for black people and culture, it’s me.  I have often thought that many of our society’s racial ills could be solved by dropping white kids off in black neighborhoods for a few months. I’m only half-way joking, by the way.  So many people, on both sides of the race coin, never take real time and vested interest to get to know anyone on the opposite side of the coin as themselves.  I am a firm believer in the goodness in all people, even you.

I hope that this blog post finds you.  I hope it resonates with you.  This is the blog where I’m supposed to be writing about MY journey to my truest, best self, but I hope it helps you find that for YOU.  If you truly love black people, and respect black women, you will stop impersonating them and identifying yourself as one of them.  That is one thing, in all my life that I’ve never done.  I’ve never said that I was anything other than white.  It never even crossed my mind to say that I was black.  I will tell you that, back in the day, I imitated a couple of black hairstyles; I had a curly perm that was cut in an asymmetrical style (you couldn’t tell me nothin’), I had a curly perm that I would sometimes leave wet so people would think it was a jheri curl.  I remember getting on the bus once and feeling myself when I heard someone exclaim “Ooh, she got a fye curl!” (Yes, THAT really happened LOL) And once, when I was NINE, I got cornrows with clear and purple beads on them and I would shake my head to the right and left while I rode my bike just to hear them click-clack.  I used to watch my friend’s mom grease her head, so I used to take my blonde baby dolls, part their hair, and squirt lotion on their plastic scalps.  Rachel, I was a kid.  I was imitating what I saw and what I DID TRULY identify with.  You, not so much.  You grew up in Colorado and admitted that you were born in the woods.  How many black people did you really see in the woods of Colorado, for real though???  How could you POSSIBLY have drawn yourself with a brown crayon and identified with that?  What did you know about black culture that you didn’t read in a text book?

You have told so many lies, Dear Rachel, that you aren’t making a good name for yourself.  Are you trying to portray the black woman, since that’s what you say you are, as a liar?  Way to go!  Way to sway people to the black cause!!!  If this is the example you’re trying to set for society as a black woman, go back to the drawing board, and as a matter of fact, go back and draw yourself as “white Rachel.”  Make a difference, first in yourself, by telling the truth in ALL things!  The truth shall set you free, girl!  Back away from the bronzer and take out the curly weave and do you!  You are too smart to be so conniving, too important in your own right to be a fake anyone else. You could do so much good, more than you’ve already done in your work, but right now, no one can take you seriously. You have told lies on top of lies, stories on top of stories.  Do you think if you keep telling them, that we’ll eventually believe them? Or that, like Pinnochio became a real boy, you’ll eventually really be black?  No ma’am. It doesn’t work like that. You may have some success in the short term (I hear you’re shopping a reality show), but in the end, you will be remembered as a con-artist who very likely has a mental disorder.

In closing, Dear Rachel, if you respect black culture, and in particular, black women, stop pretending to be one.  It is not ok.  On behalf of white people who really have grown up in an African-American environment, I’m going to take a stand right now and say “Bye, Rachel. Quit Playin. You play too much.”  Seriously though…it’s not funny and enough is enough.  You cannot steal someone’s identity and call it your own.  Just like a leopard can’t change its spots, you can’t change the skin you’re in, and the skin you’re in happens to be white, no matter how much you run from it.